The Gold Bug is a proposal by the members of WRT: Writer Response Theory for a Rhizome Commission (see Rhizome’s 2006-07 CFP).

Rhizome Proposal

Development docs and example images


QueRy is a net artwork that uses QR codes (2D barcode patterns) to embed textual messages in an “unreadable” digital form. In the traditions of both viral marketing and graffiti / sticker art, readers discover the striking QR code fragments on websites or on street corners, and decode the images using the decoding website, through software-enabled cameraphones, or by uploading photos of the image to a decoding website. While all QR codes work in this way, QueRy codes embed paragraphs of prose in a format that doubles as an ASCII image. Individual images can be assembled to form a larger work (a complete short story) and a larger image (a map).

Our first work with QueRy is “QueRy: The Gold Bug” is a participatory net artwork that plays with the idea of unreadable digital text and encoding, and riffs on the emerging phenomenon of ARGs. We take the public domain work “The Gold Bug” by Edgar Allan Poe (a treasure hunt story featuring the step-by-step breaking of a cryptographic message) and embed it in QR codes of a series of simple maps. Any reader who encounters a map bring it to the site (or other places) to decode it, and may upload it to the site *along with a photo of it as it was found* in order to get a “bug.” The reader-contributed photos form the background of the total map as it develops, and each reader is recorded as a collaborator in the finished artwork map - a “gold bug,” after which the map is archived and the process restarts for new readers.


WRT readers may also be interested in our past post on QR code art.

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