Giant QR code fights graffiti, 'restores' mural

A tagger defaces a mural but an enterprising urban-beautifier comes up with a clever fix: a huge QR code placed over the tag, which when scanned brings up an image of the original, unscathed mural.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
2 min read
Using mobile tagging to fight tagging. The bottom image appears on a smartphone when the real-world QR code is scanned. Wooster Collective

It seems a mural sponsored by the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, as a deterrent to graffiti, wound up attracting a little instead. But someone came up with an interesting temporary fix for the defacement.

A tipster named Jason informed street-art site Wooster Collective that a giant QR code had been placed over the offending, spray-painted tag.

And when passersby scan the code with their smartphones, they're served up an image of the original, undamaged mural, along with information about its origins.

That's a nice idea. But in describing the fix as "temporary" a few paragraphs back, I was expressing my hope that this approach (or something like it) won't somehow catch on and replace the actual restoration of murals.

Writing on future-trends blog i09, Cyriaque Lamar says he can "see urban beautification taking shape" as augmented reality. My "Blade Runner"/"Brazil" side can see it too, especially with government budgets being as slim as they are these days.

I'm fascinated by the possibilities of augmented reality and virtual worlds. But I'd hate to see them supplant the actual physical environment and notions like civic pride. (Stranger things have no doubt happened.)

Kudos, however, to this QR approach as a stopgap measure (and interesting statement in its own right).

P.S. Not to unduly romanticize urban grit, but I do find Lamar's idea of a kind of virtual reverse-beautification intriguing (and amusing). "Imagine walking through Times Square," he writes, "and having the option of flipping on 'Porno Theater 1970s' mode to blot out the glare of Red Lobster."