Human Communication – One step forward, two steps back?

Posted: October 5, 2012 in Words and communications
Tags: , , , , , , ,

With the proliferation of logos that encapsulate a message in an image (symbol) and bar codes in the form of stickers that appear even on the smallest fruit containing a wealth of information about the “product”, are we returning to preliterate days when communication was done through pictographs and symbols? Last week I posted a cartoon that answered this question with a tongue in cheek image of a QR Code posted on a tombstone. So what the heck is a “QR Code” and how does it communicate its information?

The following is taken from Wikipedia’s  extensive page:

“QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry.

The QR Code was invented in Japan by the Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process, and was originally designed to allow components to be scanned at high speed.”

“Unlike the older one-dimensional barcode that was designed to be mechanically scanned by a narrow beam of light, the QR code is detected as a 2-dimensional digital image by a semiconductor image sensor and is then digitally analyzed by a programmed processor.” (simply stated, a smartphone’s camera function!)

This is the one for wikipedia’s home page:

[WikiQRCode.png] 

“Formerly only for industrial uses, they have in recent years become common in consumer advertising and packaging, because the popularity of smartphones ‘has put a barcode reader in everyone’s pocket’…  it provides quick and effortless access to the brand’s website.”

QR Codes not only can be put anywhere but they can be done up in any size imaginable. I recently saw a huge one on a billboard in NYC and a smartphone would have no problem photographing it.

“Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the telephone’s browser. This act of linking from physical world objects is termed hardlinking or object hyperlinking.”

So what can QR Codes do as communication?

“In June 2011, the Royal Dutch Mint (Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt) issued the world’s first official coin with a QR Code to celebrate its 100 years of existence of its current building and premises. The coin was able to be scanned by a smartphone and link to a special website with contents about the historical event and design of the coin. This was the first time of a QR code used on currency.” Way Cool!

Here are some other uses/ideas I’ve come across while doing research for this article:
Real Estate Listings: Snap a code of a for sale sign, take a virtual tour on your phone.

Business Cards: Snap a code on a business card and download the person’s contact info. (This one’s been done)

Dating: Print out a t-shirt with your code. If people are interested, they snap you and get your phone number or e-mail address or Facebook page.

Linking to Facebook / Twitter: Snap codes and people automatically see what you’re looking at and where. (this could be dangerous, but then no more so than tagging photographs you’ve taken with geo data)

 [b2bmktgconfcode.jpg] 

Microsoft’s has come out with their version of QR codes called Microsoft Tag . These are two-dimensional color codes that contain a lot of information and are very readable by smartphones’ cameras. Doesn’t this remind you of an image painted on a Native American’s tepee?

The next time you innocently scan in a QR code, thinking how convenient it is use to get information, remember this scary excerpt from Wickipedia:

“QR Codes may also be linked to a location to track where a code has been scanned. Either the application that scans the QR Code retrieves the geo information by using GPS and cell tower triangulation (aGPS) or the URL encoded in the QR Code itself is associated with a location.”

Lastly, this is communication between devices, not humans. No one, not even the technologically gifted can “read” a bar code or a QR Code without a device. But is this the future destiny for human communication? Well, handwriting, gave way to typewriters, then to computer keyboards. Remember those SciFi movies where a human has a barcode tattooed on the body. Maybe eventually we’ll be able to have a chip implanted in us that can read these codes. Then writing, typing and words will be a thing of the past!

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