Object Lessons

Object Lessons is an essay and book series about the hidden lives of ordinary things, from ....

Series Editors: Ian Bogost and Christopher Schaberg

"The Object Lessons series achieves something very close to magic: the books take ordinary—even banal—objects and animate them with a rich history of invention, political struggle, science, and popular mythology. Filled with fascinating details and conveyed in sharp, accessible prose, the books make the everyday world come to life. Be warned: once you've read a few of these, you'll start walking around your house, picking up random objects, and musing aloud: 'I wonder what the story is behind this thing?'"

—Steven Johnson, bestselling author of How We Got to Now

"In 1957 the French critic and semiotician Roland Barthes published Mythologies, a groundbreaking series of essays in which he analysed the popular culture of his day, from laundry detergent to the face of Greta Garbo, professional wrestling to the Citroën DS. Object Lessons continues the tradition."

—Melissa Harrison, Financial Times

Object Lessons

Remote Control

by Caetlin Benson-Allott

While we all use remote controls, we understand little about their history or their impact on our daily lives. This book offers lively analyses of the remote control’s material and cultural history to explain how such an innocuous media accessory can change the way we occupy our houses, interact with our families, and experience the world. From the first wired radio remotes of the 1920s to infrared universal remotes, from the homemade TV controllers to the Apple Remote, remote controls shape our media devices and how we live with them.


Golf Ball

by Harry Brown

This book explores the composition, history, kinetic life, and the long senescence of golf balls, which may outlive their hitters by a thousand years, in places far beyond our reach. They embody our efforts to impose our will on the land, whether the local golf course or the Moon, but their unpredictable spin, bounce, and roll often defy our control. Despite their considerable technical refinements, golf balls reveal the futility of control. They inevitably disappear in plain sight and find their way into hazards. Golf balls play with people.



by Adam Rothstein

Drones are in the newspaper, on the TV screen, and swarming through the networks. But what are drones? The word encompasses everything from toys to weapons. And yet, as broadly defined as they are, the word “drone” fills many of us with a sense of technological dread. This book will cut through the mystery, the unknown, and the political posturing, and talk about what drones really are: what technologies are out there, and what’s coming next; how drones are talked about, and how they are represented in popular culture. It turns out that drones are not as scary as they appear—but they are more complicated than you might expect. In drones, we find strange relationships that humans are forming with their new technologies.

The Autumn Oak

A Mini Object Lesson

by Ian Bogost

Among those who dwell under oak canopies, the experienced will learn to sweep, rake, or blow the leaves and acorns off of porous surfaces quickly. But even the vigilant can’t keep up with nature.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The Racial Symbolism of the Topsy-Turvy Doll

The uncertain meaning behind a half-black, half-white, two-headed toy

by K. Tait Jarboe

It’s unclear whether topsy-turvy dolls were first created to reinforce racial and sexual power dynamics or if they were something more subversive. Either way, the dolls have since the beginning been reinterpreted and appropriated.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The Implant That Helps Fight Cancer

How the medical port, placed under the skin to facilitate the flow of drugs, makes chemotherapy a part of a patient's body

by Anna Leahy

Approximately 650,000 people undergo chemotherapy treatment annually in the United States. The medical port has become an integral part of treatment for many of them.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The Fonts We Love to Hate

A Mini Object Lesson

by Ian Bogost

Let’s take a trip back in time to revisit the worst fonts of each decade since fonts became usable on computers.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Making Music With Color

How color organs connect light and sound

by Michael Betancourt

The invention of color music (and the instruments that perform it) is rooted in the similar way humans experience sound and light, two entirely unrelated phenomena that behave in similar ways—both can penetrate materials, radiate in all directions equally, and diminish with distance following the square-cube law.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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