User:Eastwood/research writing/mediaobject

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Media Object

Deck of Cards

Specificity of object

A "traditional" 52 deck of cards, consisting Joker, Queen, King etc, unlike many other game objects, can be played by any amount of people, in many different ways, at all kinds of levels. Furthermore the iconography is not limited to the litterate, the educated, the young nor the old. It transcends culture, genders, religion, and have been found across the globe. They span the breadth of history, and their function continue to evolve.

What is it interfacing/mediating

There is nothing specific about the interface of a deck of cards. Now they exist beyond the physical sphere, and exist more as an icon. Born from games, likely communal, they can be played alone, can be engaged with through magic tricks, are the icon of luck, and used to make gravity defying structures.

They are not restricted by their simplicity in their construction. Their games, and actions speak of many different systems in society, and can give us some interesting simulations of specific interactions. Whether it be gambling, or bridge, seriously undertaken by many, or games of snap or solitaire used as time passers, meditation, or ice breakers, cards are universally recognised far beyond their obvious function.

Why you pick the object

A 52 deck is interesting as an icon of games as a complex human tool. Games in general, and particularly card games, are under-recognised social activity. It is too easy to postulate that they are simply an entertainment object, as many games embody complex problem solving as generated by either other players, luck, or maths. Furthermore, they are well tuned social tools whether that function be in an enabling sense, or in creating conflict or friction.

Beyond this, culturally the 52 deck, carries, as well as generates iconography far beyond the existence of games. Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Jokers live far beyond the feudal era, and in some cases, it is the specificity of their valuation that transcends their game functionality.

How does it relate to self directed work/research

Games are one of the few systems based, social, and critical spontaneous activities that is accessible to a wide range of people. Systems based activities would be those that are undertaken within (but not necessarily constricted to) certain parameters, or rules that define the activity. There are many activities that would fit this definition, but less that also embody the other characteristics of social or critical.

Activities like sport, cooking, making music, or building also fit this criteria, but unlike a game of cards, often can be restricted by other, often unavoidable restrictions. Sport by physical ability, cooking by access to ingredients, making, building or playing music by restrictions of space and/or equipment. Further to this, cultural restrictions, or questions of literacy may also impede you from the preceding activities or others like it.

Cards (and games at large), have the luxury of being widely accessible, and accepted. They still leaver similar critical, social functions of the others, and like the others are open to further complex interpretation and development. Built into the format of cards, activities can be adapted to suit the needs of the interactors.


  • cards around the world
  • games and their origins
  • iconography
  • teaching, science and religion