Mourning in the Digital Age: Canadian Startup Qeepr Wants to Put QR Codes on Tombstones

Technology can be many things to us, but the one role it plays that is central to all of our lives is that of storytelling. Placed within the network of connections that is the Internet, a story can spread across several countries in a matter of seconds.

The story can also remain, fixed in one position for years at a time, establishing a sort of temporal permanence. There are articles, blogposts and webpages from a decade ago hanging around, one Google search away.

Qeepr is a Montreal-based startup that wants to take the story-telling power of the Internet, and extend the temporal stickiness of a story beyond mere decades to memorialize the dead. By using QR codes implanted on tombstones, Qeepr aims to keep the memory of the departed alive with online profiles prepared by their loved ones. It is an innovative take on a field that has been steeped in tradition.

This innovation has resonated throughout Canada, and it has also brought Qeepr some early international traction, with engaged users from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland flooding in with the stories of their dearly departed. They are launching a French version, as well as a mobile application, to accelerate this border-crossing traction.

Founder Mandy Benoualid directs all of these border-crossing stories at Qeepr Headquarters in Montreal. She thought of the idea because while she was mourning her own grandfather, she realized that “commemorative practices have remained stagnant over time,” and she wanted to tell his story in a manner more befitting of the digital age we live in. She wanted to craft something memorable for her grandfather that told more of his story digitally then a few lines etched into stone manually could.

When a QR code on a memorial is scanned, it leads any device to the Qeepr platform, where a full profile of the departed—from photos, videos, to a family tree—can be seen. Trusted friends and relatives can access, and edit the profile, and add more content as they see fit.

Qeepr fully embraces Web 2.0 principles in a balanced way that reflects the intimacy associated with its’ subject matter: not only can visitors access information related to the departed, but they can add some themselves. The profiles function as an open guestbook where visitors can leave their thoughts and condolences. Family members can vet the submissions and control what gets seen publicly and privately, building up to an interactive memorial that still lives on, even if the individual it describes does not.

The Internet has transformed how we deal with the most intimate moments in our life, from finding love, to connecting with family members. Nowadays, a conversation between two individuals is often punctuated by a glimpse at a smartphone screen, a symbol of how technology and society intersect and sometimes clash with one another.

Death may be the one exception to that rule. The host of changes we have witnessed has been so breathtaking, and the early adopters have been so young that the final frontier has not been reached yet for many. Facebook opened up memorial pages four years ago for the profiles of those who had gone on, but the vast majority of its’ users won’t begin to see that feature for a few more decades. It’s also difficult even for immediate family members to find and access the memorial pages, as they are not searchable on Google, and access hinges on the departed having explicitly declared their next-of-kin on Facebook. 

How we will mourn in a digital age is still very much an open question.

Qeepr is answering that question with each profile it builds on its’ digital platform: you can entrust your stories with them to be part of a collection of stories that aim to defy borders, whether physical or temporal.