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

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.

A Brief History of the ATM

How automation changed retail banking

by Bernardo Batiz-Lazo

In spite of their cultural significance, ATMs recede into the noise of everyday memory. From its humble and uncertain beginning nearly 50 years ago, the ATM has become pervasive. Few stop to reflect on how they—and the computer infrastructure that supports them—became the backbone of contemporary retail payments.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

What Makes an Electric Guitar Sound Like an Electric Guitar

A series of happy accidents and analog technologies led to the weird sound effects of the 1950s and beyond.

by Robert Jackson

Consider how many transformations take place during the production of sound from an electric guitar. Guitar effects and the boxes that generate them have married theory and practice, history and material, content and form. Some effects, and the boxes that produced them, altered musical periods beyond recognition.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Ode to Green Slime

How a glorious blob of goop became a pivotal symbol of kids’ culture, an Object Lesson

by Rebecca Onion

Green slime is that gooey non-Newtonian fluid you may remember from childhood science experiments or Nickelodeon television shows. It’s a material that has no function other than to entertain. But in the depths of each glob are embodied all the contradictions of contemporary kid culture.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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