We capped another week of project-based hustle by doing some quick-and-dirty field research on pedestrian understandings of QR codes, the two-dimensional barcodes I first encountered in Tokyo in 2001, and which have recently become fairly hegemonic on the streets and subways of New York City.
Given that very ubiquity, I wanted to get to some clarity as to what ordinary people think when they encounter one. As I’ve noted here before, our assumption/bias going in was that an absolute majority of pedestrians and transit riders encountering the codes would neither know precisely what they were, have the wherewithal to use them as intended, nor be able to complete the task strongly implicit in the code’s presentation.
Assumptions and bias, though, are invariably a lot less interesting than actual findings. With the aid of my intrepid ITP students, then, we set out to get some answers, and see if we couldn’t either confirm or disconfirm those suspicions. We wrote a bare-bones interview script, set up intercepts in Manhattan’s Union Square and at 7th & Bedford in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, and successfully completed a survey of a small but suggestive number of respondents (n=28). We’re planning to follow these locations with research in the Jackson Heights district of Queens, to more fully round out our picture of New Yorkers.