Tagging the Real World through Barcode Apps

Earlier this week, Peter Brantley noted an interesting barcode application for Android phones that connects the ISBN data on a physical book with Google Book Search listings. This merging of the physical and digital worlds isn’t novel — other companies offer similar applications — but the discussion surrounding these apps tends to focus on retail threats and opportunities rather than broader uses.

Speaking as an unabashed content geek, I find the information curation possibilities from this digital-physical merge particularly interesting. The Web has provided an assortment of organization tools — RSS feeds, readers, tags, categories, etc. — that help me find and synthesize a vast amount of information. But the same can’t be said for the real world. If something pops onto my radar while I’m sitting in front of the TV or shopping at a store, I need to open a browser (assuming I have a computer or phone), punch in the information and save it for later retrieval. This isn’t an arduous task, but it lacks the elegance of scanning and tagging Web-based data.

My online efficiency increased exponentially a few years ago when I incorporated RSS feeds and readers into my daily routine. Instead of tediously visiting particular sites or running open-ended search queries, I could now gather useful sources in one application and sort that data into segments geared toward my own needs. Not to get too syrupy here, but it was an eye-opening experience that revealed a new depth to the Web. These barcode apps offer similar possibilities for seamlessly accessing the physical world’s stored information. Armed with a cell phone and a data plan, those of us who are curation minded can expand the boundaries of discoverability into an untapped region.

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