QR Codes: Self-Preservation, Encrypted
While QR (quick response) codes have been used for self-promotion since their inception, it was only a matter of time before their abilities would be harnessed for self-preservation. Created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the codes have been in use for over a decade in Japan. As stated in a Forevergeek.com article, “Tombstone creator Ishinokoe (Voice of the Stone) of Yamanashi Prefecture, soon will offer tombstones featuring embedded QR codes.” Furthermore, a recent mashable.com article features the tombstone that Israeli medical technology executive Yoav Medan designed for his mother, Judith, which also utilizes the technology. Quiring Monuments, a Seattle-based headstone company, has transformed the practice into a product, now promoting what are billed as “Living Headstones". These Living Headstones feature a built-in QR code, which links to an online archive site that can be customized by family and friends to include information such as an obituary, ancestry data, photos, and a map to locate the memorial in the cemetery. David Quiring, the owner, states in an NPR article on the invention, “My job is to help people tell a story in stone, generally.”
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s online initiatives, featured in a recent NPR article, delineate how archival preservation has taken a modern turn with the advent of social media. With the Remember Me project, a photo database of children displaced by the Holocaust, “the Museum hopes to identify these children, piece together information about their wartime and postwar experiences, and facilitate renewed connections among these young survivors, their families, and other individuals who were involved in their care during and after the war.” Another resource, The World Memory Project, a partnership between the Museum and ancestry.com, features over 336,000 records by over 1900 users. With the tagline “The Power of Truth is in Your Hands,” the ancestry.com site posits that the project’s mission is “to allow anyone, anywhere to help build the largest free online resource for information about victims and survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution during World War II.” Potential contributors must download software which enables them to view digitized documents uploaded by the museum, and key information from the documents into a database, making them searchable online. However, as Dr. Lisa Yavnai told NPR, “Memory is tricky territory, but the Holocaust Museum is used to that: Its mission is to preserve stories and memories of war — even those that survivors are trying to forget.”
Thanks to technology, the human obsession with obtaining immortality has been realized on a scale that makes it virtually accessible to anyone. As our social lives become more integrated with our technological lives, and the tangible world is becoming increasingly reconfigured by intangible products and networks, could it be that we have succeeded in securing our own immortality simply by becoming more connected? Has technology humanized us more by making us more cognizant of the needs of others, and more capable of addressing those needs? As individuals become more android-like, with cells that are both biological and computerized, and memories that are increasingly contained in pixels, bits, and bytes, we must contend with the quandary of to what extent we would like our lives and legacies to be preserved.
That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material. - Swami Vivekananda
Companies like Entrustet and Legacy Locker offer users the ability to decide how they will be remembered by bestowing their online accounts to heirs following their deaths. While man has always been responsible for creating himself, we are now asked to apperceive our lives as well. As the boundaries between biography and autobiography become increasingly blurred, we are more capable than ever before of creating authentically true monuments.