Andrew McLuhan Teaches Understanding Media Intensive: Part One

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Andrew McLuhan Teaches Understanding Media Intensive: Part One

Understanding Media Intensive: Part One 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Lectures will include explorations and explanations of never-before-seen author annotations, historical documents, and personal accounts.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 Thursdays from 5:00pm-8:00pm PT, beginning April 7, and ending June 16, 2021.

Course Logistics

Learn at your own pace
With over 30 hours of video lectures and discussions, learn from home with our video courses. 

We also offer Diversity Scholarships. Apply here.

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.

Course Outline

Week 1 • Preface to McLuhan – From Cambridge to the NAEB (Trivium to Project in Understanding New Media), from Understanding Media to Laws of Media

Week 2 • Preface to McLuhan – ‘Marshall McLuhan’s Theory of Communication’ (from ‘Theories of Communication’ (Marshall and Eric McLuhan, 2011))

Week 3 • Introductions – Understanding Media Introduction 1 (1964) Understanding Media Introduction 2 (1966) ‘Forword is Forearmed’ – Eric McLuhan’s 2003 (unpublished) introduction of Understanding Media

Week 4 • Chapter 1 – The Medium is the Message

Week 5 • Chapter 2 – Media Hot and Cold

Week 6 • Chapter 3 – Reversal of the Overheated Medium

Week 7 • Chapter 4 – The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis

Week 8 • Chapter 5 – Hybrid Media: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Week 9 • Chapter 6 – Media as Translators

Week 10 • Chapter 7 – Challenge and Collapse: The Nemesis of Creativity

Course Goals

The objective of the course is to provide participants with a 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. It is expected that community engagement in the discussion groups 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 10-week 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.


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.