Musical Postcards Create Tones When Read Aloud

Musical Postcards Create Tones When Read Aloud

A new art project penetrates the world of bar codes in a distinctly human way.

Rachel Pincus
  • 2 january 2014

As the Internet of Things becomes more complex, we have an increasing number of devices that speak only to each other. Though the result of these communications might be useful to us in the end (let’s hope so), it’s fascinating when we get a rare glimpse into the encoded world as computers read it. ::vtol::, an ongoing project from the Moscow-based media artist, musician and engineer Dmitry Morozov. His latest project, post code, which premiered at the Cité internationale des arts, Paris, combines the visual and auditory sides of his work by utilizing product bar codes – a ubiquitous identifier in both consumerist and industrial environments that is nonetheless unreadable by humans.

His tools for interpreting bar codes include an old photo printer, a circuit-bent webcam, a mono sound system, and of course, a bar code scanner. Interpreted as pitches and sounds, the glitchy bar code ‘music’ is strangely haunting, providing one possible first-person perspective of a bar code scanner’s inner workings. The postcards generated by the photo printer as the ‘music’ plays, however, is what really drives home the message of the project, turning something so mystifying to humans into a tangible (if now dated) artifact of our communications – which, when hand-written, are just as unintelligible to computers. See this unusual way of reading bar codes in action below.


Sources: Aeon::vtol::

GIF: Prosthetic Knowledge


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