I have a love/hate relationship with QR codes. In 2008, I began experimenting with them and subsequently launched a full-fledged audience engagement initiative around the technology in 2009. At the time, they were fresh and new and mysterious. The museum at which I worked had a younger, edgy and tech-centric visitorship, so the program was a success and we saw respectable scan rates.
In the years since, however, marketers have taken hold of the things and now you can’t escape them. They’re even on bananas for heaven’s sake.
Throughout my time in the museum world, I always admired the work of Shelley Bernstein and her team at the Brooklyn Museum for their forward-looking, playful and accessibility-focused approach to utilizing technology in their galleries. Shelley has been an open critic of QR codes, but she hopes a new project that marries QR with Wikipedia will be the tipping point for usage rates of the BK visitorship:
“Simply put, Wikipedia is a well-used resource and it’s likely something that visitors find incredibly familiar because of the daily presence in their lives. What we know of QR is almost the opposite. QR is dominated by technical frustration, marketing interests, low scan rates and user confusion. Could Wikipedia get visitors over QR code hump of technical hurdles and poor user experience?”
If anyone can crack this nut, Shelley and her team can. I wish them success and look forward to hearing about the results.
But in the end, maybe we’re all in love with the idea of QR codes, rather than the technology itself.