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.

The Piano That Can’t Play a Tune

How the restoration of Fats Domino’s Steinway grand piano reflects the trajectory of post-Katrina New Orleans

by Mary Niall Mitchell

Submerged in nine feet of water from a massive breach in the nearby Industrial Canal, it sat for weeks in the fetid lake that covered 80 percent of New Orleans after Katrina. It is a tale about persistence in the face of government neglect, cataclysmic disaster, and the painful incompleteness of reconstruction.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

Air-Conditioning From Outer Space

Air conditioning and outer space have a history that goes back further than ballpoint pens that write upside down.

by Robert Barry

Air conditioning and outer space have a history that goes back further than ballpoint pens that write upside down and infrared ear thermometers. A century later and 98 percent of American cars are built with air conditioning and 83 percent of American homes have at least one air-conditioned room. It was as if we were preparing to colonize and terraform our own planet.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The Paradox of Time Capsules

A form of futurism, and a way of bottling up context in its purest form: temporal treasures

by Erik Rangno

Time capsules provide one of the best means to address the collective need for belonging, past and future. Whether in the form of a shoebox buried in the yard or a satellite programmed to return to Earth thousands of years from now, the paradoxical goal is the representative objectification of daily living. As a result, the message they send is equal parts altruism and egocentrism, hope and despair, all underwritten by persistent anxieties over individual mortality and the end of the world.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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