The Honors In Amsterdam program was developed as a research-based study abroad experience, whereby students develop research proposals in Seattle, which are then carried out in Amsterdam.

This unique program is an international collaboration involving faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students in a collaborative Summer School of the Virtual Knowledge Studio (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), the Honors Program of the University of Washington (Seattle), and the International School for the Humanities and Social Sciences (University of Amsterdam).

2010 Program
Urban Lab Amsterdam: Culture, Technology, and Environment

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, numerous Dutch specialists were called in to advise on strategies for maintaining a livable city in an otherwise uninhabitable natural condition: that of living below sea level while surrounded on all sides by water. While the character of this expertise might appear at first glance to be primarily technological, it also represents a cultural condition – an approach to the world that integrates technology, culture and environment in powerful and uniquely Dutch ways.

What other lessons can be gleaned from exploring these relationships in the Netherlands first hand? While maintaining a successful balance between nature and culture in its battle with the rising tides, the Dutch also face the full sweep of social and economic challenges facing the rest of Europe as it navigates the emergence of a rapidly (and messily) globalizing world. Climate change, immigration, ethnic and religious integration, international crime, terrorism and international and social justice issues all converge in the Netherlands. Their responses to these issues, when viewed in the light of Dutch traditions and attitudes toward culture, technology and the environment form a ripe field for research and investigation.

When looked at from afar, Seattle and Amsterdam appear similar in many ways. Both are port cities tied to international trade, with histories marked by waves of immigration and the aggressive re-working of their geographic settings. Both are recognized worldwide for technological innovation and for varying degrees of progressive policy-making. But these similarities mask underlying differences, some glaring and some subtle, in attitudes toward privacy, public space, housing, transportation, healthcare, and social interaction to name just a few. How can these similarities and differences be mapped, analyzed and communicated as a process of research? How can the spaces, artifacts and rituals of the city be employed as an urban laboratory to study the spatial and social effects of these and other contemporary issues.