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Continuum Publishing Corporation
15 February 2015
Society & Social Sciences; Material culture; Media studies; Engineering: general
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

While we all use remote controls, we understand little about their history or their impact on our daily lives. Caetlin Benson-Allot looks back on the remote control's material and cultural history to explain how such an innocuous media accessory has changed 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.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
By:   Caetlin Benson-Allott
Series edited by:   Dr. Christopher Schaberg, Prof. Ian Bogost
Imprint:   Continuum Publishing Corporation
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 165mm,  Width: 121mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   170g
ISBN:   9781623563110
ISBN 10:   1623563119
Series:   Object Lessons
Pages:   184
Publication Date:   15 February 2015
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Introduction: What a Mess! Chapter 1: Changing Volume Chapter 2: Switching Channels Chapter 3: Comprehensive Control Conclusion: Material Literacy Index

Caetlin Benson-Allott is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University, USA. She is the author of Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (University of California Press, 2013) and of a column on film and new media in Film Quarterly.

Reviews for Remote Control

The remote control encourages us to take it for granted. It's ubiquitous but easy to misplace. An essential convenience but still an overly complicated nuisance. But in this compelling history, Caetlin Benson-Allott places remote controls at the center of our media universe, demonstrating how profoundly these devices shape contemporary media practices and our everyday lives. You'll never surf the same way again. * Jason Mittell, Professor of Film & Media Culture, Middlebury College, USA, and author of Television and American Culture * While promising control, the remote often fails to recognize commands or deliver our desires. Caetlin Benson-Allott shows how the history of the remote, including its affordances and burdensome proliferations, can help us better understand contemporary media technologies. * Michele White, Associate Professor of Communication, Tulane University, USA, and author of Buy It Now: Lessons from eBay * Caetlin Benson-Allott offers an analysis of `remote control' as a `technology and a cultural fantasy.' ...What was once a fantasy, a thing of the imagination, becomes instead an instrument, but by that instantiation it scrambles and reduces the myriad imaginative uses it once anchored - realizes some, sends others packing, or separates them out. -- Julian Yates * Los Angeles Review of Books * Object Lessons' describes themselves as `short, beautiful books,' and to that, I'll say, amen. ... [I]t is in this simplicity that we find insight and even beauty. ... Remote Control by Caetlin Benson-Allott is another pleasure, walking us through the history of one of my favorite objects, with a history dating to the 1920s. In the middle to late 1970s, I was actually employed as a remote control, as my father would say, John, change the channel to 7, or Put it on 9, and my job would be to get up and change the channel to 7 or 9. I was relieved to be replaced by an infrared model in the 1980s. ... If you read enough `Object Lessons' books, you'll fill your head with plenty of trivia to amaze and annoy your friends and loved ones - caution recommended on pontificating on the objects surrounding you. More importantly, though, in the tradition of McPhee's Oranges, they inspire us to take a second look at parts of the everyday that we've taken for granted. These are not so much lessons about the objects themselves, but opportunities for self-reflection and storytelling. They remind us that we are surrounded by a wondrous world, as long as we care to look. * Chicago Tribune *


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