Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Playing Cards

Marshall McLuhan

Pack of Marshall McLuhan Distant Early Warning (DEW) Playing Cards, in original packaging, 1969.

DEW Line pack of cards, by Marshall McLuhan, 1969.

Marshall McLuhan was a media scholar who coined the terms 'the global village' and 'the medium is the message'. The cards were available from Eugene Schwartz, the New-York-based publisher of McLuhan’s 'DEW-Line' newsletters published from 1968-70.

McLuhan observed that the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, a radar-based set of stations across the Canadian north built during the Cold War to warn of Soviet attack, was a perfect metaphor on the role of art and the artist at a time of rapid social and technological change. For example, he wrote in 1964, 'I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW Line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.'

The cards have quotations on them, some are well-known 'McLuhanisms', while others are attributed quotations. The card deck was intended to stimulate decision-making, problem-solving and lateral thinking.


Object Number:
cardboard and paper (fibre product)
playing card
  • recreational artifacts
  • furnishing and equipment
  • recreational artefact
National Media Museum, Bradford

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