Fun but maybe a bit macabre, there have been a number of articles on the topic of QR codes being used in cemeteries in Japan since as early as March 2008, when the memorial stone maker Ishinokoe announced its decision to begin offering codes embedded in their gravestones. With Japan’s reputation for pushing the envelope with technology and the popularity of cell phones and QR code usage there, it may seem somehow unsurprising to hear of the rising popularity of this memorial feature. But a recent story on NPR suggests that this concept may be taking off in the West, too.
So what is a QR code? A QR code, or “Quick Read” code, is a small two-dimensional square much like a bar code that is featured on anything from magazines and food items to business cards and clothes. Scan a given QR code with you cell phone and you’ll be forwarded to a website that has its address is encoded in the design.
How are these QR codes being used in Japan for people who have died? As the video report below (Japanese only) shows, people are setting up QR codes with websites containing images and information about their loved ones on the memorial stone markers. Just whip out your cell phone during your visit to the deceased and scan the QR for their personal site that’s been set up with photos, text, or any other related media by loved ones, providing the viewer with an instant connection to the dead. Relatives can view the number of hits the grave gets, and visitors can also sign the website after they’ve visited like a guestbook. As the crunchgear.com article states: “The mourners can also access information about who paid a visit to the grave recently, get the deceased person’s profile and other data or set up a virtual grave.”
Of course, in the age of unavoidable technology, maybe it shouldn’t be shocking that you can’t even escape the internet after you’re dead. Is an uploaded and updatable web presence a good way of honoring the deceased? Is death depersonalized by the web or does the ability to constantly check hits on a guestbook site provide closure?
In the West, too, this trend is catching on. In May NPR ran an article on a Seattle-based company called Quiring Monuments that’s started to introduce QR codes as well. There’s no mention in the article as to whether the head of this company originally got the idea from the Japanese companies pioneering this idea of living on through technology three years ago, but clearly this is the direction the age of cell phones and living through the web is moving. See the Quiring Monuments advertisement for this service (in English) below.
A great way to honor the dead or another creepy way for the internet to invade us (beyond the grave)? You decide!