Wednesday, March 23, 2011
QR Code Book: Why We Lose Our Hands
In-house printer Chris Fritton has recently finished an exciting project here at WNYBAC: a book composed entirely of QR codes entitled Why We Lose Our Hands. The book is a study in contrast: it is printed entirely in black and white; it uses the most antiquated analog technology (letterpress) to articulate the most recent digital technology (2-D codes); and it requires an electronic device to decode, even though it masquerades as a technologically-independent object. And it is, in many ways, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to "read" it.The book itself creates a very convoluted reading experience, one where the reader holds the book, holds their smartphone, the smartphone reads the code, then the screen presents legible text to the viewer. The requisite technology becomes a filter or a foil for the primary information, which is illegible otherwise. It's a microcosm of our everyday experience with technology and computers, which code, decode, and recode binary sequences at nearly the speed of light that are illegible to most humans.Fritton insists that he is ambivalent about the QR code technology - he says he undertook the project as a way to create a discussion about certain issues: digital/analog cooperation, reliance on prosthetic devices and data sources for knowledge and content, the socio-economic barrier the presence of such technology uncovers (you need the means to have a smartphone to yield the "benefits" of QR codes), and finally, the illusion of speed and efficiency these codes perpetuate. "There's something very curious about a cipher named 'Quick Response' that requires me to take the phone out of my pocket, open an app, point the camera at the code, and wait for the translation. Most literate adults could read 5-10 sentences in that time."So how is the QR code "quicker" than written language? It isn't, to be honest. But it is far more efficacious for its original intended purpose: cataloging and charting the course of millions of auto parts throughout the Toyota supply chain.For those who are interested, the book is available for 15.00USD at Fritton's Etsy shop.