Andrew McLuhan Teaches Understanding Media Intensive Part One: Tools for Engagement

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Andrew McLuhan Teaches Understanding Media Intensive Part One: Tools for Engagement

Understanding Media Intensive Part One: Tools for Engagement is a 10-week long intensive look at the first part of media theorist Marshall McLuhan‘s major 1964 work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, taught by Andrew McLuhan, Director of The McLuhan Institute.

In an age where our media environment conditions and structures our reality in increasingly potent ways, Understanding Media provides important foundational knowledge on how our cultural traumas and tropes are embodied in technologies. This course will provide lecture and discussion on Part One of the book, which puts forth a set of tools for exploring human technologies and innovations as a means to regain agency in the midst of our increasingly disorienting online lives.

Lectures will include explorations and explanations of never-before-seen author annotations, historical documents, and personal accounts. Time will also be spent on the two introductions by Marshall McLuhan, and an introduction “Foreword is Forearmed,” written in 2002/2003 by Eric McLuhan but never published. A scrapbook of materials around the publication of the book in 1964 compiled by Marshall’s wife Corinne McLuhan, containing reviews and interviews, will add further context to how the book was received and provide insight into the material under discussion.

Classes will happen live on Mondays from 5:00pm-8:00pm PT (8:00pm-11:00pm ET), beginning April 15, 2024 and ending June 10, 2024.

Course Cost

Live Access – $600
Live Access is full access to UMI Part One: Tools for Engagement classes as they happen, includes recordings to review what’s been covered already this term, live chat, and engagement in weekly classes.

Audit Access – $360
Audit Access is access to UMI Part One: Tools for Engagement as view/listen only. This is ideal for those in time zones which do not agree with that of the class, and is also a lower-cost option. The Audit option is only available in the USA.

We also offer Diversity Scholarships.
Apply Before April 1.

Course Outline

Week 1 • Preface to McLuhan
– Practical Criticism
– Metaphor, Aphorism, Empiricism
– Understanding Poetry > Understanding Media
– From NAEB Report on Project in Understanding New Media to UM to UMR (Understanding Media, Revised, 1970) to LoM (Laws of Media, 1988)
Foreword is Forarmed Eric McLuhan 2002/2003

Week 2 • Introductions
– Understanding Media Introduction 1 & 2 (1964)
– Overview of Marshall McLuhan’s Theory of Communication: The Yegg from Theories of Communication (Marshall and Eric McLuhan, 2011)

Week 3 • Chapter 1 – The Medium is the Message

Week 4 • Chapter 2 – Media Hot and Cold

Week 5 • Chapter 3 – Reversal of the Overheated Medium

Week 6 • Chapter 4 – The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis

Week 7 • Chapter 5 – Hybrid Media: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Week 8 • Chapter 6 – Media as Translators

Week 9 • Chapter 7 – Challenge and Collapse: The Nemesis of Creativity

Week 10 • Extra Class/Synthesis/Rain Date if required

Course Requirements

  • Computer/device to watch or listen to lectures and participate in Q&A.
  • Participants are asked to use a physical copy of the 2003 Gingko Press “Critical Edition” of Understanding Media as it includes both of Marshall McLuhan’s introductions, and for easy reference to page numbers, as well as to receive full benefit from deep immersion in printed text. You can buy the book here, or purchase the Abe Books version here.

Each class will feature a lecture by Andrew McLuhan, followed by a discussion period. Questions will be addressed as they come up. Each class may have one or more optional assignment to be considered and completed as creatively as the student wishes (assignments have been completed as short essays, songs, meditative exercises, comics, and more). A portion at the end of class is dedicated, where possible, to reviewing completed assignments. While optional, completing assignments is valuable for the individual student as it is a way to really embody and solidify the learning while applying it to current situations. It is also helpful to the class at large to observe how others ingest and express the information.

In 2020, Andrew led the first cohort of students through Understanding Media Intensive with Gray Area’s support. The original plan was to do just Part One of the book (the first seven chapters) with a couple of additional classes on the front end for context. Students were adamant that the whole book needed to be covered also, so they ended up running through the whole book word by word in 36 classes averaging 2-3 hours each. Demand was high enough to do a second cohort (UMI 2, 2022-2023) and now a third cohort, UMI 2, will begin April 2024. In UMI Part One we will cover the first part, the first 7 chapters of the book. If students want to go on, we will do the second part, in two blocks of 13 classes.

Each cohort has made for a unique experience as the group composition and dynamic makes the discussion and assignments one of a kind. More significantly, a lot changes in the technological environment year over year. One of the benefits of this course is the bringing together of people from different backgrounds who have certain things in common but who would likely otherwise never meet. It has been very interesting to see the differences between cohorts based on not only the differences (and similarities) between the groups but particularly the circumstances or setting of the course. When we ran UMI 1, it was all about ‘the metaverse.’ UMI 2 was underway as ChatGPT and Midjourney hit the scene. In both cases, it seemed as if the book were written specifically to inform what was happening at the moment of reading and discussion – because it was. Now, it’s all about AI and we’re eager to see how UMI can help us make sense of what’s happening. It is a remarkable thing that Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man was written to be a guidebook to understanding the ‘personal and social consequences’ of technologies, whether read in 1964 or in 2024.

The objective of the course is to provide participants with an ease of approach and deeper appreciation and understanding of McLuhan work in general, this material in particular, facilitated by Andrew McLuhan, drawing on his 20+ years of experience with the text and work, and aided by the introduction of artifacts such as Marshall McLuhan’s annotated copies of the book, other books, and materials from Eric McLuhan’s library. Community engagement in the discussion will be of added benefit as like-minded people engage in mutual exploration and respectful dialogue. Participants will be challenged to take their time in reading and reflecting on the material. Part of the reason for the weekly pacing is to allow time for reflection and absorption of the material – to become comfortable, accustomed to the style and sensibility. It is increasingly difficult for people to experience text in this way, so one aim of this course is to create an environment that will make the fullest appreciation of the material possible.

Optional assignments are given for every class and are a way for participants to apply the material to their work and lives and issues of the day. They are completely optional, valuable both as a way to really reinforce learning. Time is made during each class to go over assignments when possible. Assignments are not graded but people have found them useful for newsletters and blog posts. As an incentive and bonus, a draw is held at the end of each of the three parts of UMI for a selection of materials (books, cards, offprints, etc.) from the TMI archive. Each assignment completed is one entry into the draw.

Participants who complete the entire 36 classes of UMI from chapters 1 to 33 will receive a printed certificate.

  • Class is in Zoom, primarily the instructor reading and commenting and answering questions as we go along.
  • TA helps by adding links to the chat where helpful, keeping track of assignments, assisting students where necessary.
  • Dropbox folders for each week will contain relevant extra materials, and shared assignments.

Andrew McLuhan is a grandson of Marshall McLuhan, noted Canadian professor from the University of Toronto who was a pioneer in the field of Media/Communications studies. Andrew's father, Eric McLuhan, was Marshall's eldest son, who worked with Marshall from the mid-1960s until Marshall died in 1980. From 1980 until his death in 2018, Eric McLuhan continued the work he began with his father, completing important works such as 'Laws of Media: The New Science' (1980) 'Media and Formal Cause (2011) 'Theories of Communication' (2011) among other solo works. In 2009 Andrew began work documenting and inventorying Marshall McLuhan's annotated library (now at the Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, and named to UNESCO's 'Memory of the World Register' of globally-significant cultural artifacts) which was his first major McLuhan project, and has been the subject of several speeches. For about a decade, Andrew acted as Eric McLuhan's part-time assistant, student, and travel companion, accompanying him on speaking tours near and far, getting deeper and deeper into the unique McLuhan tradition of exploring culture and technology. Andrew acted as Eric McLuhan's part-time assistant, student, and travel companion, accompanying him on speaking tours near and far, getting deeper into the unique McLuhan, tradition of exploring culture and technology. The more he learned, the more he wanted to share, and he has been writing and speaking and teaching workshops, classes, and courses. Following Eric’s unexpected death in 2018, Andrew has kept going on his own. Andrew is director of The McLuhan Institute, created in 2017 to continue the work begun by Marshall McLuhan and Eric McLuhan in exploring and understanding culture and technology. He lectures globally at universities, speaks and gives workshops and consults at companies. Understanding Media Intensive is his most in-depth course, leading two full cohorts through Gray Area since 2020.