QR Code subversion?

As a follow up to my previous post on using barcodes to know more about a product, I have been reading various websites and reports about the use of QR (quick response) codes in Japan. QR codes are the two-dimensional ‘barcodes’ that can be scanned by a phone. Most sites frame the use of QR codes in terms of the commercial potential to provide consumers with more ‘information’ about a product. It appears to be an exceptional opportunity to intervene in the matrix of protocol and image that underpins the current image-based logistical consumer culture regime.

I just posted an email to the cultstud list to see if there have been any attempts to use QR (quick response) codes for, firstly, subverting purely commercial-advertising purposes and, secondly, providing critical information in the form of labour relation practices and like by companies.

The closest thing I have found so far in my googling are two reports about accessing food information through QR codes. The first one:

In the supermarket, consumers use camera equipped cell phones to scan the QR code on the label. The code links to a mobile website detailing origin, soil composition, organic fertilizer content percentage (as opposed to chemical), use of pesticides and herbicides and even the name of the farm it was grown on. Consumers can also access the same information over the Ibaraki Agricultural Produce Net website by inputting a numbered code on each label.

And this brief report from DoMoCo that outlines how QR codes have been used in an educational capacity for learning about the nutritional requirements:

After learning about daily food requirements and nutritional balance through lectures and quizzes, parents and children formed pairs to participate in a rally-style quiz on vegetables using mobile phones. Children used their handsets to read the QR code (a “Quick Response” barcode used on consumer products in Japan) affixed to vegetables, and then communicate with their parents to answer the quiz questions displayed on the handset screen. The trial pointed to the potential of mobile phones to serve as learning tools that can be used anywhere at any time.

As most phones nowadays can have many gb SD cards, a downloadable wiki-based database of critical consumer information seems possible. I have no idea about the technical dimensions of the various phone software platforms, etc. My understanding is that developers should be able to produce such software for a variety of phones.

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