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.

Drone

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.

Nobody Uses Dental Dams

So why do they still exist?

by Anna Waters

“Nobody is using them.” It might seem like that would spell doom for the dental dam. But it has managed to live on: first as a staple of sex education, but now as a symbol of sex positivity for queer women—whether or not anybody ever uses them.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Cottage Cheese Is the New Greek Yogurt

Americans’ dairy consumption is about to get a lot more cultured.

by Robin Tricoles

Stalwart food scientists and artisanal dairy farmers have high hopes for the future of cottage cheese. With yogurt sales on the decline, a golden age of curds might be right around the corner.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Smartwatches Are Changing the Purpose of the EKG

Wearables help cast the medical test as a talisman of health-care competence.

by Andrew BombackMichelle Au

Like the white coat or the caduceus, the EKG has become talismanic, more valuable for the symbolism it provides than any diagnostic information it can convey. Now that EKGs are making their way into smartwatches, their symbolic purpose could risk overtaking their medical one.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes

Strategists considered sacrificing older pilots to patrol the skies in flying reactors.

by Christian Ruhl

The advantages of nuclear submarines over their conventional cousins raise a question about another component of the military arsenal: Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Why Coal Symbolizes Naughtiness

And how it should be used instead.

by Kent Linthicum

A century has passed since coal was in widespread domestic and industrial use. Today, as humans still burn coal despite the known ecological costs, it might better serve as a reminder of collective ecological arrogance.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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