Digital Necromancy: Does the QR code yet live? An empirical look at what QR codes can still do for us.

Lightning Talk

Friday, April 05, 2019: 11:00am - 12:30pm - Grand Ballroom: Lightning Talks

Carlos Austin-Gonzalez, The British Museum, UK

The QR code raises eyebrows when its name is spoken – largely out of favour, it is seen as old-fashioned, obscure, ugly and inconvenient. However, despite having one foot in the grave, it remains a simple tool to bridge the gap between the real world and the digital. The British Museum recently took a critical eye to QR codes used in two new galleries to see what could be learned from visitor behaviour around them in 2018. Using a holistic approach, we brought together information about various kinds of visitor behaviour beyond the QR codes themselves, both qualitative and quantitative, and from that tried to build an understanding of why behaviour around QR codes has been as it is, and whether they can be made to work even when they have otherwise failed to meet so many of their expectations as a well-used mobile-friendly hook from the real world into online content.

In 2018 the British Museum added QR codes to two of its recently refurbished galleries, the Hotung Gallery of China and Southeast Asia and the Albukhary Gallery of the Islamic World. There two projects were quite different; in the China and Southeast Asia gallery there was an impetus to make interpretative material available to Chinese-reading audiences, while in the Islamic Galleries there was the need to communicate a set of audio recordings which brought the commentary of community voices to the gallery.

Using these two galleries as case studies, this talk will explore how the data from QR codes was interpreted and what it means for our understanding of the value of these codes.

Gallery 33 QR Codes - Research findings, British Museum internal document