Women Safety (NL)

Why Nieuw West over Centrum ?

After doing the research for over 2 weeks, we have data of almost whole Amsterdam. But, thing that interest us is the data between Centrum and Nieuw West. Centrum is the inner-most deelgemeente, or submunicipality, within the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. It has one of the best sights and attractiorichting_nieuw_west_250x200ns for everyone from quirky museums to astonishing shopping streets. On the other side, Nieuw West  combines former districts Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, Osdorp and Slotervaart with the private gardens surrounded by broad belts of public green that separated the L-shaped blocks from the street, seamlessly connecting each green space, from the inner yards to the smallest flowerbed running alongside the housing for elderly people.

The interesting thing obtained from Veiligheidsindex is the difference between the subjective and objective safety index in these places, the subjective safety index of Centrum is low whereas, the objective is high and its vice-versa for Nieuw West. Hence, the people feel safe in Centrum, but aren’t actually safe and it’s opposite in Nieuw West.

Scientists have made a surprising finding about positive emotions that should change the way people think about anxiety disorders. Also, researchers have generally talked about safety in terms of a reduction of fear, and it’s no surprise that we found that the safety sound reduces neural activity in the amygdala. It’s not possible to make something fullproof and eliminate crime. Instead, we can decrease the number of crimes by making women feel safe and strengthening their reflex actions to fight or resist for any mis-happening, if there is any.

Death of Public Space: Part of Plein ’40-’45, one of the main squares of Nieuw-West, is replaced by a huge shopping mall with an internal street, with all the main shops aligned. During the day, this is public space, but at night it is closed off.

How safe people are in crowded places ? Scientifically, No ! the term bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. On a personal front, we have seen most of the women in their groups hanging around Centrum but, in Nieuw West we found women either alone or just with kids, as they usually visit market but in Centrum its because of tourist attractions.

All these interests us for choosing a place where people’s feeling will get affected and make them strong and safe.


Field research (September 30 – October 2)


Vrouw en Vaart

So, last week we did a lot of field research. It started with the meeting with Nursul Saygili who is working for the women centre Vrouw en Vaart in stadsdeel Nieuw West. We hoped that she had a lot of information about the women and how they felt about safety. This was not true! But no worries, she gave us some women to make up for it. A lot. On monday (30/9) and wednesday (2/10) we could talk to several women.

Focus group Turkish women

On monday, Turkish people were having coffee together. There were around 10 women. Me and Loes went there. We made this plan to ask questions and they could write their ideas on post its. Through these post its, we could make connections and ask further questions. But……. the situation was not as we expected it to be. It was very informal and everyone was laughing and sometimes talking Turkish. So we had a more informal discussion which was good, since there was a lot of information. According to the safety index made by the government, people should feel unsafe in nieuw west, but are actually safe. We asked them about this, but most felt safe during the day and did not go out when it was dark. The place they avoided was the park at night (nothing new). The interesting thing is that they felt safe, but they did a lot of things to make themselves feel safe. So they wouldn’t feel safe if they wouldn’t adapt their behavior.

Meeting with BOOT

After this meeting Adwait, Loes and me went to the BOOT office, which is an organisation that helps people with reading governmental letters etc. So if you do not speak Dutch and you get a bill that you don’t want to pay, you go to them. She told us about some interesting projects, like square 40/45 and railwaystation Lelylaan. On square 40/45 there were people working to make the place more safe, but also to guide people around who do not know the way yet.



Focus group Morrocan women

So wednesday (2/10) I had a great hike with Morrocan people. I arrived at Vrouw en Vaart and expected the same scene as on monday, but this was not the case. We went for a walk at 10 in the morning and did some nice

excercises. I talked to some women about safety. After we returned we had some tea (the most sugary tea evah) and the people had pancakes. They told me around the same as the Turkish people. They did not go out at night. They did not even go out on bike, cause they did not feel safe on the bike. So if they had to go out at night, they would take the car or take their husband. The most interesting was the organiser of the event. She told me (she was also morrocan, but her Dutch was perfect and she looked more Western than Morrocan) that those women were dragged out of their houses by the organisation. Well, not all of them. 7/10 arrived at Vrouw en Vaart throught the CWI (which is this organisation to make people go to work). So this was their first step into the wild. Does this make the information I just gathered kind of biased? YES. But still, the information can be used, but we have to consider that the women experience their neighbourhood as their whole world.




So that’s it. Tomorrow we will do some more field research in Nieuw West (plein 40/45) and actually get quantitive date so we don’t have to say ‘most of the women don’t like to got to park’, but we can say ‘30% of the women who have an age of 30-40 do not go to the park between 18-20’


Meeting with Henriette van Der Linden

To gain more insight into the history of feminism in The Netherlands and how women started taking actions to ensure their safety, we set up a meeting with Henriette van Der. To meet this influential lady in the political history of Netherlands our team travelled to the beautiful city of Leiden. Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 11.59.55 AM

The city has beautifully preserved its cultural heritage and we actually got to see some 19th century windmills, something characteristic of the Dutch landscape and a symbol of the Dutch struggle with water.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 12.07.07 PM



Talking to Henriette was an insightful experience for our team. She told us about some early measures that were taken to make city’s safer for women. Like the inclusion of female architects in the urban planning process and and introducing women as the head of schools. Amongst various roles that she held throughout her career, she told us that when she was the Alderman of the municipality, she took measures to dissolve the cultural differences of immigrant women who were living in the area. She told us how they set up bike lessons free of cost for them and allowing them to access the swimming pool once a week, when it would be closed for the men. Such measures taken by her also attracted substantial criticism from her male colleagues and other Dutch natives. An interesting example that she gave us was how that how a group of women would go and cut the hedges around the bike lanes and the parks so that women feel safer when biking through during late hours of the night. Talking to her provided us with some great information and examples that we could use for our project.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 12.23.26 PM

1st Field Research in Nieuw-West (September 26)

Today, we went to “Nieuw-West” that we decided as a important place for us.


Why Nieuw-West?

First, the population of women is higher than other areas. Second, the gap between safe index and unsafe index in this area is big. It means there are some factors which makes the gap. We are interested in the factors.

Research abstract:

+Place : Nieuw-West Central

+Time : 1pm – 5pm

+Respondents : 6 people
1) 2 Dutch girls (age:15-18)
2) 2 Dutch women(sister, age:20-35)
3) a Muslim girl (age:18-25)
4) a Dutch woman (age:20-30)


Research Method:

Questionnaire and map



1)  I don’ t know the area, what do you recommend where is it nice to go for coffee?

2)  What areas in Nieuw-West do you go to or walk/bike through a lot? and why? You can mark it on the map on the back.

3)  Has there been occasions where you’ re felt less safe or at ease on the street? Why was that? And where?

4)  Are there places in the area you avoid sometimes? Why is that?


Turkish or other immigrant groups yells…in specific area.
Muslim girl said “I feel unsafe everywhere in the evening when it’s dark.”.
=>it’s same as the data from safe index by each immigrant

Sloterpark, which is a big park near centrum Nieuw-West, is popular for running, walking and so on.
However, some parts of the park are seems unsafe.

small streets & place without street light


I felt safe in this central area.
Non-european were many and they were from teenagers to elderly people.
Muslim women are  many in this area.

Improvement: How can I improve the method?

Use color pens – marker is better, pen is worse,
Use a board to support writing outside.
Prepare stickers and let them stick. It makes respondents easier to answer.
Researcher should lead users and extract the deeper experience and voice.
Bring the Recording device.Recording could’t be conducted this time.

First I went with serious expression and atmosphere. I realised it made respondents feel serious.
Make good atmosphere!


by Shin

Workshop on Design Research by Marco van Hout (September 18)


Conflicting concerns

This morning there was a workshop on Design Research. We started talking about conflicting concerns and how this appears almost in every design. So for example if you have a smartphone, it is great that you can contact a lot of people, but the problem is that you don’t look around you anymore. This comes with a lot of products. With our problem, the most difficult thing is that objective safety and subjective safety are sometimes conflicting. We should try to make people be safe and feel safe.

Research questions

After this, each group showed their research questions to each other. Our research questions were fine (Maybe because we already discussed it with Marco, hehe), but there was one thing that had to be changed. This used to be our main research question: What are the determinants that influence women’s feelings of unsafety in Amsterdam and what are factors that should be taken into account when designing interventions that can have a real impact? The problem with this question was, that we used the word determinants and factors, which makes it kind of weird. The factors are actually some of the determinants, so we should put it like this:

What are the determinants that influence women’s feelings of unsafety in Amsterdam and which of those should be taken into account when designing interventions to positively influence the unsafe feeling of women in Amsterdam?

Maybe this question will need some changes, but we will see that later.



Methods to use

The methods which Marco told us about were : 1. Design etnography (interview/observation) 2. Experience design (touch points) 3. Empathy (experience the same as the user) 4. Primary research (field research) 5. Secondary research (books)

Break up letters

This is all great, but Marco told us we should also do stuff like writing break up letters and bodystorming. Yes, that sounds weird, but those are innovative methods to get more creativity going on. We all wrote a break up letter for a product which we don’t like anymore. This way, you can easily find out what people think is wrong with the product and what used to be interesting. Here is one letter to my toilet that is flushed electronically:

Dear ‘maal’  toilet,

You have been making too much noise. I don’t understand you anymore, cause I can’t make something out of the noise you make. Also, sometimes you smell really bad. The other problem is that I often have to explain people how to treat you constantly, cause you are such a complex person. You make my life so difficult, when actually it should be easy. I will get someone new: someone who is easier to handle.

Goodbye, Laura


This was fun. There was something more fun yet to come. We did a bodystorming session is which we showed a solution to the audience by demonstrating it. Shin was a superhero, Adwait was a dangerous person, Akarsh was the panic button and I was the user. You can fill in the rest for yourself..



Meeting with Koen ‘t Hof (September 17)

Today we talked to Koen ‘t Hof, professor of applied psychology at the HvA. He is specialised in safety perception and wrote a lot of articles on it which we can use for our research. Just to remember: Veiligheidsbeleving en de Tafel van Twaalf and Circling Safety – feeling (un)safe at Railway stations are the most useful for our project.

We started with a talk about his articles in which he found out that going out areas and railwaystations are the most dangerous. We discussed what makes certain places more dangerous, which would be garbage etc. Also, we found out that it is difficult to evaluate the impact of the safety enhancers. This is due to the fact that there are a lot of variables during evaluating. The environment is constantly changing, so it is difficult to do controlled experiments. We will have to think about this, when recording our results.

The next thing we discussed was about the influences of the perception of safety. Koen found out in his railwaystation research, that, people around that are perceived as being dangerous, influence the perception of safety. This means that the fear of people increases, when people perceived as dangerous, are around. On the other hand, it can also increase the feeling of safety, when there are comforting people around.  There is an interesting model on it, which we will elaborate on later, since we did not find it yet.

After that, we discussed some possible solutions for the unsafety problem. Koen was talking about scent, which is interesting, but difficult to adapt in public space. This would make people less aggressive. A more interesting idea is the tunnel that makes bird sounds. It is focused on the cognitive experience. So someone will bike through a tunnel, her phone is connected with the tunnel which will tell the tunnel that for example Sophie is arriving. The tunnel will display ‘Hello Sophie’ and she will be asked what bird she hears most often in the tunnel. This causes her to be cognitively busy, so she doesn’t think about feeling unsafe anymore. We could talk to the guy that has thought of this cognitive process of the tunnel. It might be interesting for our own product.

finalThe other important thing was the fear of crime paradox which Van ‘t Hof talks about in his research on the railway stations. Where people feel safe, they are mostly unsafe. He gave the example of the center of Amsterdam where people feel safe, but actually they are the least safe. He also mentioned the bystander effect which entails that when there are more people around, people tend to offer less help to victims. This is interesting, since in busy places, people actually feel more safe, but when something happens, they will not get a lot of help.

Then back to Amsterdam. We are having a tiny problem with finding negative results on the safety of women. Amsterdam is too safe. So we asked Koen if he knew more about the safety of Amsterdam. The interesting thing he said is that there are a lot of difference in the perception of safety and the actual safety of an area. This means that a safe area can have the perception of being unsafe. This is what we should focus on. But it is verrrry important that we don’t make people feel safe in an unsafe area. (If we do want

to do this we should first make sure that the people are safe in the certain area) We can see that often people are very positive about their own neighbourhood. (That is what Koen said) This is because they think it is more predictable. So we should not only ask people from theirneighbourhood if they feel safe, because the ‘ visitors’ are more important for our research.Loes mentioned after the meeting that one of the teammates in India said the complete opposite. They want to make women feel safe in unsafe areas, so they will stand up for their rights. This shows the big difference between Holland and India.

We also talked about the perception of risk. If there are bigger consequence to a possible crime, then there is a bigger risk perception. Someone who is specialized in this, is Paul Slovic. We might want to use this in our research.


People we can talk to: Koen talked about the municipality that is trying to make certain areas more safe, but it won’t improve. An important area is Nieuw-West where they can not succeed to make it safer. Koen will ask his colleague to find out if we contact a certain person from the municipality. It is also an idea to talk to the CCV which stands for Centrum
criminaliteitspreventie veiligheid. This means Centre for Criminalprevention safety. And as I already mentioned, we can talk to the guy from the interactive tunnel. We should also talk to someone from slachtofferhulp.


Problem definition workshop (September 11)

IMG_2648This morning we attended a workshop on problem definition by Charlie Mulholland who is a lecturer at the HvA. This was about determining the problem of our project and looking at the people and things that are involved. We started by picking our client, customer, user and initial problem statement. Our client, or partner, is Cisco since they are working together with us. The customer, who will buy the product can be a NGO, non profit organization, the government or women. This is due to the fact that we don’t know what we will be making yet. If we make an object that has to be bought by the women, then the women will be the customer. If the object is placed in the environment by the government, the government will be the customer. The user will be women in Amsterdam. The initial problem statement will be: How can we improve women’s safety in public spaces in Amsterdam?

After this, we defined the various stakeholders. We did a brainstorm session on defining the stakeholders, which gave us someIMG_2650 interesting insights. We came up with the following stakeholders: woman, technology organisations, family, surrounding people/society, government, security services, neighbour, children and a dog. During the next step was writing down the views of the various stakeholders. This meant that we checked how the stakeholders are involved in the problem. The family will, for example be interested in the problem since they are scared that their daughter will feel unsafe.

Eventually we did the 5w’s + 1h exercise. It started with Who, which would be the people involved. The What included what is happening which were comments, following, staring and physical harm. The Where was answered by public spaces in Amsterdam. For When, we chose times of day (night especially), drunk people at night (after a party) and early morning in the park. The why can be answered by the initial problem statement. The How can not be answered yet, but it could be a device, a change to the environment or something completely different.

IMG_2660After the exercise, Charlie, explained more about the design process. It is all about iterating, iterating, iterating. He told us about induction and deduction. Also, he showed us a video which is very well known. (People throwing a ball. You have to count certain passes of the ball) The point of this video was that when you focus on a certain thing, your brain will not receive certain information anymore. Well, it will receive it, but will not process it.

So if you look for an elephant, you will never spot the giraffes anymore.

First visit Cisco (September 11)

IMG_2720This afternoon we visited the Cisco office. We took the tram to Bullewijk where the office is situated. The first impression was that it was like a real neat office. People were wearing suits and it looked like people were doing some serious business.

We got our badges and Jan Roggeveen (Bussiness development manager) took us to the meeting room. We started discussing general information about Cisco. Jan talked about how everything can be connected by their devices and through internet. We talked about smart buildings in which light bulbs are connected to the network, so they can be easily maintained. This was the more general information, but after that we focused more on safety. Jan told us about new systems that would enable people to report crimes digitally. Someone could visit a building with a screen and talk to a police officer through this. This would cost less money due to the fact that the police officers are all situated in one place, so they can work efficiently. This might be interested for our project, only we want to avoid the crime. We will not be focusing on reporting the crime. Again, there will be some stuff that we can get out of this. Especially, the fact that it is place independent is interesting for us. We actually need something that is place independent. The device we will make should work everywhere.

There was a thing that Jan said which might be interested for our project. He talked about feedback and how something can eventually become a working system. If you keep on giving feedback, you can start data mining. So if you gather enough information about somethings behavior, you can predict this behavior.IMG_2670

After this, we talked about the environment and how it can influence safety. The thing which popped up into my head was that this will not be applicable everywhere. Of course the lighting will influence the feeling of safety, but this means that we will have to change the environment everywhere, which will not be as effective as making a device that a woman can carry with her.

This brings us to the next issue which we still have to investigate. Jan talked about how feeling safety is a difficult thing to use in our project. How do we know if someone is feeling safe? The only way to find out is to ask people.

We then talked about a possible solution. (We don’t know if we will be using this, but it is just an idea) Everyone has a mobile phone these days which is usable when we make something to save women. They will be more willing to use an application on their phone than another extra device. This way, we use what we already have by using new software. Another idea is that it can be based on, for example, the heartbeat of a woman and this again can be connected to the phone.

IMG_2703To conclude, it was a very interesting meeting in which we also got to see the telepresence room which we can use to talk to India. Cisco is willing to help us and we think that gives us more opportunities and ideas.





Week 1 (September 2-9)

The kickoff

The first week of MediaLAB Amsterdam entailed a lot of fun activities in which we got to know each other and learned a lot about various topics. We got to know more about design, blogging and MakeyMakey, which will be useful during the development of our project. Our project will be on the safety of women in public spaces in Amsterdam. We will be working together with a team in Bangalore, India which will do the same project simultaneously. So it will be mirrored projects in different cities. The expectation is that the two cities will give different results in the end.

The user scene

First of all, we started with determining our user scene, which will involve various stakeholders. The most important one is the woman, but the environment, surrounding people and emergency response should also be taken into consideration. In order to understand safety better, we decided to look closer into what dangerous situations a woman can be. That is why we made this list in which situations are ranked from less dangerous to more dangerous.

  1. Staring
  2. Commenting
  3. Following
  4. Physical molestation
  5. Physical harm when snatching bags

In Holland, most of the people have some experiences of being followed or passing comments. It doesn’t happen often that you hear stories about rape. Although this is the perception, there are some shocking figures to be found in the newspapers. The Volkskrant states that in Amsterdam there are 2 people every day that are being sexually abused. One out of three abuses, consists of rape. This mostly happens in Bijlmermeer and Slotervaart which are the suburbs of Amsterdam. Although this is shocking, we decided to focus on the first three points in our list. We will do more research on this later, but for now we will focus on the first three points of our list. This is due to the fact that most abuses take place in domestic scenes. This is not what we focus on, since we are interested in public space. So we did not take the more serious abuses into account when we shot our video.

The video

The video which we made depicts the user scene. It shows the daily routine of a woman during which she encounters some dangers. First of all, she is being looked at and screamed at. Second, she is being followed and in the end she tells her friend that she doesn’t feel safe enough to go to the park at night. This is how we tried to show that it is more about the feeling of safety in Amsterdam than actual harassment. The interview with the woman in the end (only to be found on the MediaLAB website due to privacy issues) again illustrates how women feel in Amsterdam.