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 Mason Jar, Reborn

How a container once integral to farming culture came to be the hipster vessel of choice

by Ariana Kelly

The Mason jar’s resurgence is due, in part, to the variety of ways in which it can be repurposed. It’s repeatedly praised for its reusability, its aesthetic appeal, and its purity. It has, however, recently taken on a negative connotation of its own.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Consider the Lavatory

A Mini Object Lesson

by Christopher Schaberg

While airlines go to great lengths to sell the experience of flight as individuated, personal, and endlessly customizable—the lavatory is the only truly private place on normal commercial airliners.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The Art of Fridge Magnets

A Mini Object Lesson

by Jonathan Rees

What refrigerator magnets do best is to make a boring, mass-produced appliance seem more individualized than it otherwise would be. They give us a chance to fill the largest blank space in our houses other than our walls with whatever we decide defines us at any particular moment.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Gas Leaks Can’t Be Tamed

They’re invisible, everywhere, and mostly harmless

by Nicholas Kawa

Aside from their contribution to climate change, most natural-gas leaks pose little threat. And, for that reason, the gas company generally lets them be. They belong to a much broader world that is often well beyond our control, even when we try to pretend otherwise.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Watermelon, Fruit of the Flesh

A Mini Object Lesson

by Ian Bogost

Seeds. Seeds everywhere, just like there used to be before the Great Unseedening. Back when watermelon was a seasonal, seeded fruit, it was really something else entirely.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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