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Remixing Disciplines in Pursuit of Creation and Discovery

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Jessica Comola

Noah Travis Phillips brings together art, technology and theory inside of the classroom and out.

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What are emergent digital practices? Noah Travis Phillips, new visiting teaching assistant professor in DU’s EDP Program, describes the field as “the fruitful coupling of creativity and critical thinking.” Emergent digital practices are those which bring art, technology and cultural theory together to explore how these disciplines are in conversation.

“In this way, EDP is inherently interdisciplinary,” Phillips explained. “EDP addresses the most challenging and rigorous of each discipline, and this often takes the form of high-energy and demanding classroom environments for the students and for the professor.”

When he was a student, Phillips struggled to fit his artistic endeavors into the traditional academic spaces he encountered. Described by one of his professors as a “rogue scholar,” it wasn’t until Phillips was a teaching assistant in a course called “Mind & Nature” that he discovered how dynamic and engaged a class could be.

It was the interdisciplinary approach of the class, which addressed fields like environmental studies, math and psychology, that brought the course to life. From that moment forward, Phillips centralized interdisciplinarity in his own pedagogical methods.

“I often implement the concepts and languages of music and ecology to inform my art,” Phillips explained. “Remix(ing) is a key example here — primarily a musical approach but one that can be translated to visual art as well.”

This winter, for example, Phillips will be teaching a special topics course that draws on the “remix” as a way to think about do-it-yourself creative praxis. “Remix” will drive research and creation with practices ranging from 3D printing to hypertext to audio/video and more.

“Likewise,” Phillips continued, “I often apply ecological or systems theories to an artwork or performance-lecture to discover possibilities and better consider how subjects and ideas are interrelated.”

In the classroom, Phillips cultivates experimentation, bold thinking and a willingness to “celebrate grand failures rather than safe successes.” He emphasizes the individuality of his students, helping them find multiple perspectives from which to view their own creative and critical pursuits.

“One of my favorite things about teaching at DU is the small class size. This allows me to maximize one-on-one time with students and to view the classroom as an interconnected network of individuals.”

Phillips continued, “Students come to the classroom with so much prior knowledge and experience. My role is to be a friendly guide in cultivating students’s own curiosities and providing critical and creative tools and approaches for pursuing ideas and research trajectories in effective ways.”

Phillips aims for his students to embrace divergent thinking that can expand possibilities of the future.

“Our future needs different thinking and ideas (and heroes and stories and relationships and cultures and so on). We need these things in order to have greater connectivity, more sincere ethics and more critical and interdisciplinary thinking.”

“Culture is something that we inherit, something done to us, and art is what we can do to culture. EDP and the University of Denver provide a pretty ideal environment for this to happen in.”

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