Netherlands, Amsterdam

Becoming A Fly on the Wall: Observational Methods for Violent Everyday Conflicts

when 2 July 2016 - 16 July 2016
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 ECTS
fee EUR 1000

We have all wanted to be a fly on the wall at some time. To observe human interaction “in the raw”. That is certainly the dream of every behavioural scientist, especially those who study activities like violence and crime. But only relatively recently, with the advent of technologies like CCTV, has such real-world observation become widespread. A technique with the potential to revolutionize behavioural science by revealing how we act when we think no-one is watching.

In this course you compare that method, and the data it produces, with insights from traditional forms of observation. In particular, you focus on conflict and crime situations under the auspices of expert lecturers from the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). What makes an argument escalate into violence? What role do bystanders play? How do people respond to heated discussions in public space? What scenarios make robberies successful or unsuccessful?

In addition to lectures on the theoretical underpinnings of interactional approaches to violence and crime, there is plenty of lab and field work. Your practical testbed is the city of Amsterdam, where you gather real observational data to answer a specific research question. You undertake the entire research cycle, from formulating a problem and hypothesis to collecting data, analysing it in an interactional framework and, finally, presenting your findings.

Course leader

Dr. Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard

Target group

Students of Criminology, Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Behavioural Ecology and Conflict Studies.

Course aim

You will be able to formulate research questions and hypotheses regarding observations of interactions in everyday conflict situations.
You will be able to collect observational data about everyday conflicts, ranging from participant observations to CCTV footage.
You will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in different types of observational data.
You will be able to reflect on the biases involved in sample selection for observational data.
You will be able to conduct a systematic and detailed analysis of conflict-situation interactions which is both inductively and deductively driven.
You will be able to develop coding schemes for the interpretation of observational data related to your research question.
You will be familiar with the sources of software for the analysis of interactions in time and space.
You will be able to present research findings.

Credits info

45 contact hours

Fee info

EUR 1000: The tuition fee includes an airport pick-up service, welcome goodiebag, orientation programme, on-site support, 24/7 emergency assistance, and a transcript of records after completion of the course.

An early bird discount of €100 is available for students who apply before 1 March, and students from VU Amsterdam as well as from exchange partner universities will receive a €250 discount. You apply for the discount simply by indicating that you are currently a student at VU Amsterdam or at a partner university in the online application.

All courses include excursions. We will also organize trips and excursions as part of our social programme, which is a great way to get to know your fellow students and learn more about Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The social programme is not included in the tuition fee.

Furnished accommodation is available. Various housing options will be offered, starting at €425 for two weeks.


The Amsterdam Summer School offers ten scholarships that cover the full tuition fee of one course. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is 31 March. Information about how to apply for the scholarship will be posted on the Summer School Website.