There are no benches in this city, because the people who make such decisions have decided that places to sit are also places to sleep, and they don’t want people to sleep on the streets, even though they still do. A lack of meaning is its own meaning, as the misfortune of virtue defines its own transgressions. I sit along a short, prudish wall meant to retain a narrow landscaping scheme, carefully positioning my tailbone between small stainless steel bollards riveted to the concrete, meant to dissuade potential skateboarders. This pier was once part of the port system from which this city earned its name. Now it is a seemingly chaste harbor to graphic design firms, real estate firms, information technology firms. There are no QR codes visible from this spot. Only the large QR code remains: my mental map of this city’s topology, viewed from a perspective that is not physical, nor virtual.
It’s almost too much, to try and organize the more abstract meanings of the city into a black and white code. But the problem is never too much information, too many symbols, or too much sex. It’s all in how we use it. We haven’t quite figured out how the body of the city works in relation to QR codes, and so we’ve been making all the wrong moves. The long-implied goal of The Internet of Things is to link the network to the physical by giving every object in our possession its own IP address, to provide a routeable pathway for information in and out of objects. What information ought to flow in an out of objects is taken as granted. What the object’s name is, and where it is. Who it’s hanging out with, and where it’s going next. We ask potential sexual partners what they do and where they live, when we should be asking how they feel. If you want to know whether or not your dishwasher is running from the other side of the house, and augment it digitally to tell you so, you’ve just invented a really fucking loud dishwasher. It’s consumerism for co-dependents. You’ve embedded your URL in a QR code, right above your URL embedded in Latin characters. Before we know it, every object is screaming its own name at the top of its digital lungs, in multiple languages, in multiple tones of voice. You have a dozen lovers names tattooed on your bicep. And every piece of art has its own billboard to alert you of its existence. How many appliances in your house have a digital chime? Can you tell them apart? What do you gain from recognizing the voice of your coffee grinder, your toaster oven, and your iron? What are they telling you that you could not have gleaned from the smell of ground coffee, fresh toast, or a burned shirt?
I would rather my appliances and infrastructure danced for no reason, other than they feel sexy. I want machines to make nerdy inside jokes into street art. I want the Internet of Things to turn Things into Graffiti Artists, Dancers, and Street Performers. An unpredictable sense of humor and a good story about a scar makes a body more sexy than an exposed sexual organ and a symbolic sheen of lipstick. I want to have to decipher the city’s meaning, piece by endless piece, wondering if perhaps there is any meaning in it at all. This is what we’re doing all the time, after all, as we walk around the city, with our third semiotic-eye open, or not. We are constantly overwhelmed by our internally autonomous odd-dot astrology, picking apart apopheniac patterns that we have constructed between the brick facades, the mirrored windows, the unplanned drips of paint, and the magic marker vector geometry that grows extremophilic over the surface of our perceivable world. I long for the day when you not only need to present your verified address to buy a QR sticker printer as you do a can of spray paint, but proof of age, as when you enter that kind of club. As if any such control would stop technology from seeking out its desires, when technology like this is the most rampant evidence that our cities are departing from a Technological Victorianism to return to a gorgeous, sleazy, semiotic burlesque. Technologies like QR codes are the beat that gets our society’s machines tapping their feet. From the gaping maw of our technological future comes ugly, distorted, beautiful music, singing out loudly from bricked and re-bricked exteriors, from rusting, twisting pipes, from arcing buss fuse boxes, as our constructions slowly devolve back into the calciferous strata from which their concrete was originally mined, and our culture rediscovers what it used to do to have a good time.
And in this light, watching it perform the way it does, the city looks pretty good, if you know what I mean. Those scars, transformed into graffiti tags of an artistic reality bigger than anything short of the city itself, give it some character. The city leans over and scribbles a QR code on the back of my hand with a flirtatious wink. We’re getting to that part of the night when anyone can get up on stage. And so we keep on walking together. And tomorrow morning, as I roll out of bed, I’ll notice that QR code on my hand, and decode it then.