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 Politics of Drinking Water

Vital, renewable, and tied to civilization since the beginning of time

by Anya Groner

Most Americans take cheap, safe drinking water for granted. Unlike oil, water is a renewable resource, replenished by rain and snowmelt. Even so, environmentalists warn that we’re tapping out our supply.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

The New Work of Words

The basic unit of the sentence is doing more than it ever was before.

by Michael Erard

The word is a popular thing. As such, it’s the easiest to tell stories about. So here’s a new story you might not know about words: They’re working harder than ever before, corralled into new forms of work at which they are doomed to fail.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

150 Years of Burials at Arlington

A history of Arlington National Cemetery, where Veterans Day is every day.

by Sallie Lewis

Covering more than 600 rolling acres of green Virginian grass, Arlington is the only national cemetery in the country that inters servicemen from every war in U.S. history, from the Revolution to contemporary wars in the Middle East. The cemetery is a tribute to America and the people who have transformed it over the course of its history.

Read this essay at The Atlantic

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