Moving conferences and workshops online has all kinds of challenges and opportunities, especially when the central concerns of the meeting are those of bodily expertise, embodiment and body practices. Too often online conferences try to be digital replicas of in-person ones. When redesigning our annual MUSTS research group meeting those involved (Anna (who co-ordinates the sub-theme on Embodied Expertise in Art, Science and Medicine), Candida and much input from the MCS team and others) realised replication wouldn’t be possible. Focusing on the opportunities the new situation allowed, we adapted our program as follows, see below.
1. Instead of keynotes, we asked inspiring scholars in our field to make 10 minute audio postcards, which we compiled in a folder for participants to listen at leisure in the week leading up to the event. They did so while running, cooking, sitting at computers, and it gave many a welcome relief from their laptops.
2. We made kids activities.
3. Rather then then dive into online discussion, we arranged walk-talks as the first activity for the day, with pairs of participants who lived near each other meeting up and discussing their thoughts during a one-hour stroll in their neighbourhood. Many not only had a chance to meet a new/old colleague they hadn’t seen for months, but also to see their area anew.
4. Next was slightly larger group brainstorming. Utilising the breakout room function on Zoom, we added to this a dedicated Google Doc, for making rapid notes. We all joined the main room and heard 3 min recaps of the discussion.
5. After this intense online part of the event, we took a break for stretching, coffee, cat patting, but also brainwriting, every participant having access to all the Google Docs for individual writing.
6. Finally we all came together for a short group discussion, followed by an optional movie night that evening.
You can read more about the event on the MUSTS website here: https://www.maastrichtsts.nl/musts-thematic-event-embodied-expertise-in-art-science-and-medicine/