• Steven Heller

Marshall McLuhan, What A Card

I bet those of you followers of Marshall McLuhan never thought of him as a card sharp. Well, you’ve got a treat in store. The Master of Media, Message and Massage was also spreading his futurist gospel through decks designed as a problem-solving device.

McLuhan’s little known “Distant Early Warning” card deck (1969) could be used for any typical 52 card game but also “performs as The Management Game.”


“The card deck was intended to stimulate problem-solving and thinking, in a manner that later came to be known as ‘thinking-outside-the-box,’” notes Scott Boms, of the McLuhan estate. The cards were designed by McLuhan’s eldest son Eric, Harley Parker and George Thompson, long-time family friend and assistant to McLuhan at the Center for Culture and Technology. The cards, produced when McLuhan was hot on the cool medium of TV, evidences his vision as stated in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man during a era of rapid social and technological change.


The rules are simple. Take any card. Relate the aphorism (see below) to your current hang-up. Call to mind a private or corporate problem as you shuffle the cards. Select a card and apply its message. Take three cards. Experiment with different arrangements of these until they yield new insights and patterns in your problem. Deal yourself three cards. Pick a pair to maximize the comic side of your problem


Original decks, which were available to subscribers to McLuhan’s DEW Line (Distant Early Warning) newsletter, are actually still available to buy at The McLuhan Bookshop along with other McLuhaniania, including stationery from his various media consulting companies.






Thanks to Mirko “is the message” Ilic for these cards

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