Zoom sessions that capture the imagination

Online musework in practically oriented research

Musework can bring back the personal perspective and passion in your work, says lecturer Bart van Rosmalen. In the corona year 2020, he explored how the muses can also be chased online, together with a team of lecturing researchers and the healthcare advisors at Vilans.

Zoom sessions that capture the imagination
Bart van Rosmalen used to be an improvising cellist and theatre producer, until he left the stage because he missed the interaction with his public. In 2016, he obtained his doctorate degree in ‘musal professionalisation’. The term ‘musal’ does not refer to music, but to Greek mythology: the nine muses conceived by Zeus to sing praise to the heroic deeds of the gods. The muses are the keepers of imagination and inspiration, uplifting others with their play. And that’s exactly what Van Rosmalen wants to do: lift up people from their non-artistic professional contexts towards the creative and expressive domain. ‘Musework makes you more involved, inspired and resilient, and leads to more enjoyable cooperation and novel ways of thinking’, Van Rosmalen claims. ‘This makes working more pleasant and can bring about interesting new results.’

Looking for nuance

The main idea behind musework is that we are all creatives. Some of us just need a little push to feel their creativity. Van Rosmalen is here to give that push. In his professorship (‘lectoraat’) Art and Professionalisation, he and the other HKU professors and students explore how to break the rigid frameworks that are holding back professionals in many occupations. For this mission, they teamed up in 2020 with Vilans – a knowledge institute focused on long-term care – in the project “Authorship Innovation in Practice-Oriented Research’, further joined by HU University of Applied Sciences. The question Vilans wanted to answer: what practical value can musework offer to Vilans consultants while they advise healthcare professionals in tackling the increasing challenges of their daily work? Can they apply creative work forms in their meetings and research methods in such a way that nuance, multiple perspectives and coherence are safeguarded?

Creative zoom sessions

With a freshly obtained SIA-KIEM research grant, the project was launched in early 2020. Right before the corona outbreak… All planned in-person meetings had to be held as video conferences, and the research focus shifted to online communication. For a year, the transdisciplinary group looked for ways to ensure that digital meetings had the same impact as personal contact. Does zooming still allow healthcare professionals to enjoy their work and prevent exhaustion? In the paper that followed after one year of online research, ten participants share their experiences. It reveals that the online sessions were centred on the power of imagination, steering clear from the regular digital information exchange we all got used to during the zoom era.

Caring society

‘While regular work forms are usually about finding instrumental solutions, we artists are looking for something else. Our main concern is strengthening the context in which people cooperate. It is not about finding solutions for organisational problems within healthcare, but about finding a more considerate way of mutual interaction and having an eye for the personal perspective. Creative work forms bring us back to the humane level, and from there we can find connection and inspiration again.’

Chat as script

Bart explains how musal elements can help people towards mutual understanding and inspiration – even online. It starts with learning to speak each other’s language. And in the artist’s method, this might go beyond just words. ‘I like to work with metaphors. Sometimes I ask participants to show a personal object in their home and talk about it. Or to simply create something in five minutes. People are not used to that; creating without purpose or directions. Or writing a narrative during a meeting, such as a brief story about a meaningful event or a letter to each other.’ These are all ways to help people find their own voice and place, to bring them in touch with their work. Bart regards an online session as an audio-visual product, in which the participants are all characters. And thus, he lets the chat screen be recited as a script, while the breakout rooms serve as backstage areas, where people can speak without an audience.

Best lesson

The online experiments have reshaped and expanded his vision on musework. ‘It’s a form of design-based research, where we try lots of things and keep readjusting the research plan. Two years ago, I would never imagine myself working digitally. But ‘s possible: now my students sometimes say that a certain course was the best they ever had.’ Vilans has also learned to embrace the muses: ‘their strategy and development manager was initially quite gloomy, Van Rosmalen remembers. ‘He expected that the work would lose meaning and value when it would all be done online. But along the way he did regain his inspiration and saw opportunities again. The consultants at Vilans have adopted the musework repertoire and are now doing what they do best: spreading the knowledge through their network.'


HKU (University of the Arts Utrecht), HU (Hogeschool Utrecht) Lectoraat Onderzoekend Vermogen, Vilans

(Lecturing) researchers and artists

Daan Andriessen, Maryse den Hollander, Karlijn Nanninga, Henk Nies, Inge Redeker, Bart van Rosmalen, Anouk Saleming, Martijn Simons

Supported by

Nationaal Regieorgaan Praktijkgericht Onderzoek SIA - KIEM regeling


1 January 2020 - 31 December 2020