QRpedia in Cities of Culture

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This project is spearheaded by Neville Borg, who has been working on it with Toni Sant since 2014:

QR codes have come to be seen as an important tool to share information, knowledge and practice within various sectors, including tourism (Gretzel et al. 2010), education (Ramsden 2008), industry and commerce (Schaefer & Kennedy 2012), and even culture. The cultural sector is increasingly viewing QR technology as a suitable means to engage audiences, promote cultural products and develop synergies across the world. Evidence of this is the fact that an increasing number of cultural institutions across Europe and North America are embracing QR technology not simply as rudimentary link to new media technologies, but as a central aspect of their curatorial programmes.

Foremost amongst these is the Fundació Miró , which has made QRpedia a central concept within its museum and associated exhibitions. This QRpedia project involved a significant content development aspect, whereby a network of Wikipedians, art critics, art professors and historians was created in order to generate the Wikipedia content related to the artworks being exhibited which was to be shared with users. This content was created through a Catalan Wikiproject, and later translated to Spanish and English, thereby encouraging the dissemination of the project’s content through a variety of languages, including that most at heart to the local community. Once the project was made public, international attention led to the content being translated to a broad variety of languages, including French, Russian, German and Japanese, amongst others.

Countless other projects have taken advantage of the ever increasing accessibility of digital technology – including QR codes – to develop projects that serve to engage communities, promote advocacy and encourage the preservation of communities’ shared memories. One such example is Monmouthpedia , a QRpedia project which has transformed Monmouth, a small town in Wales, into the world’s first Wikipedia town. Monmouthpedia developed a collaboration with various public institutions, including Monmouthshire County Council, community groups, academic institutions and other bodies to create a broad network whereby knowledge about the town, its inhabitants and its history can be created and shared freely online. This project sought to encourage openness and knowledge exchange, build stronger community ties, promote the town’s cultural heritage, and empower the local community through the shared creation of content within Monmouthpedia.

The success of Monmouthpedia and the Fundació Miró QRpedia, amongst others project, sheds light not only on the potential of new media technologies such as QR codes to engage existing audiences, but also on their potential to create new audiences, or tap into audiences that are as yet unexplored. Furthermore, QR codes allow for immediate and direct tracking of audience engagement, by tracking analytics such as scans of each QR code, duration of page sessions and user provenance. Coupled with other, more detailed, web analytics, this can provide a comprehensive picture of user engagement and allow for more strategic management of cultural assets and knowledge.

It is also important to note that QRpedia makes use ubiquitous technology, where persons who own even the most rudimentary of smartphones are able to create and scan QR codes, and access the information therein. This element of ubiquity makes QR technology a potentially more accessible form of digital engagement than most, where many barriers to access (be they economic, cultural or educational) are minimised.

As in the case with Monmouthpedia and Fundació Miró, QRpedia projects often derive content from crowd-sourced sources, most prominently Wikipedia and other Wikimedia channels. In this way, QRpedia projects often attempt to combine the afore-mentioned simplicity of access to QR codes, with the goal of community engagement in knowledge-sharing. In essence, QRpedia acts as a repository of knowledge – in a similar way to traditional archives – however makes use of digital technology to encourage greater user-driven content creation and interaction.

A QRpedia project in Malta is currently (2016) in its preparatory phase, with a process of content creation through engagement with Wikimedia channels having been started over the past months. Wikimedia Community Malta, a Wiki User Group based in Malta, recently ran a Wiki Loves Monuments photo contest, inviting the public to register with Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons and submit photos of monuments and other built cultural heritage across Malta. Over 1,100 photos were submitted, many of them of sites that were not previously documented on Wikimedia Commons. This content, together with other community-sourced material and knowledge that will be created over the next months, will form part of a comprehensive QRpedia project which is planned for 2018.

References

Gretzel, U., Law, R. & Fuchs, M., 2010. Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2010: double blind reviewed conference proceedings.

Ramsden, A., 2008. The use of QR codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics.

Schaefer, G. & Kennedy, J.T., 2012. Billing with QR Codes.