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


by John Biguenet

What is silence? In a series of short meditations, novelist and playwright John Biguenet considers silence as a servant of power, as a lie, as a punishment, as the voice of God, as a terrorist’s final weapon, as a luxury good, as the reason for torture—in short, as an object we both do and do not recognize. Concluding with the prospects for its future in a world burgeoning with noise, Biguenet asks whether we should desire or fear silence—or if it is even ours to choose.

  • Forthcoming from Bloomsbury


by Michael Marder

No matter how much you fight against it, dust pervades everything. It gathers in even layers, adapting to the contours of things and marking the passage of time. In itself, it is also a gathering place, a random community of what has been and what is yet to be, a catalog of traces and a set of promises: dead skin cells and plant pollen, hair and paper fibers, not to mention dust mites who make it their home. And so, dust blurs the boundaries between the living and the dead, plant and animal matter, the inside and the outside, you and the world (“for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”). This book treats one of the most mundane and familiar phenomena, showing how it can provide a key to thinking about existence, community, and justice today.


  • Forthcoming from Bloomsbury


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.

  • Forthcoming from Bloomsbury

‘Being a Programmer, I Decided to Build a Mathematical Model for the Decay of a Shower Curtain’

A rigorous anthropology of the humble bathroom accessory

by Will Hankinson

Running the simulation 10,000 times, I get an average of 724 days between getting fed up enough to re-hang the curtain, not so far off from my two-year real-world cycle. Of course, relying on random numbers, the simulation endures wild extremes. One simulation took just under four months to go from order to chaos while another took seven years—over 5,000 showers!

Read this essay at The Atlantic

How Home Plate Lives Up to Its Name

With a new baseball season upon us, an investigation of home plate's history and meaning


Home plate even resembles a home, at least in its most archetypical, crayon drawing form. The pentagonal shape was adopted in 1900 to help pitchers and umpires to better visualize the strike zone. There is no indication that the switch to the house-like pentagonal shape was inspired in any way by the name “Home” but it’s a remarkable coincidence nonetheless. As an impressionable young child playing baseball from age seven, I assumed that part of why Home was so-named was because it looked like every drawing I had ever made of a roofed house.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The Dream of Intelligent Robot Friends

Learning about smart objects from the Karotz Internet-connected toy rabbit thing

by Carla Diana

Even in a moment of ignorance, Curi was completely enchanting. She spoke to me in a human way; she made socially appropriate gestures; she anticipated what I wanted to do. The exchange was so natural that I was able to suspend disbelief long enough to temporarily forget that I was interacting with a machine. I could simply ask it what I wanted to do in an intuitive, human way. My faith in the potential for smart objects to provide helpful assistance while also making an emotional connection was restored.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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