Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
From its origins in the late 19th century to its decline in the 21st, Sheila Liming’s Office narrates a cultural history of a place that has arguably been the primary site of labor in the postmodern economy.
During the post-war decades of the 20th century, the office rose to prominence in culture, achieving an iconic status that is reflected in television, film, literature, and throughout the history of advertising. Most people are well versed in the cliches of office culture, despite evidence that an increasing number of us no longer work in offices.
With the development of computing technology in the 1980s and 90s, the office underwent many changes. Microsoft debuted its suite of multitasking applications known as Microsoft Office in 1989, firing the first shot in the war for the office’s survival. This book therefore poses the question: how did culture become organized around the idea of the office, and how will it change if the office become extinct?
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.