Assignment 3: Decisions, Decisions

For our research in Amsterdam, I will be working with Ben Johnson and Colin Ip, and we will be broadly studying the role of healthcare within the urban culture of Amsterdam.  I have not decided whether I would like to personally focus on how the dietary restrictions and other spiritual activities of Amsterdam’s various religious groups within the larger environment of Amsterdam’s Western urban culture affect their overall health or the concern with health in the brothels of Amsterdam, as legalized, government-regulated prostitution is quite unique to the Netherlands.  If I decided to pursue the religious option, much of my research would constitute speaking with religious leaders at churches, mosques, and synagogues in Amsterdam and seeking permission to ask attendees of services about personal religious practices and their overall health.  I would also probably need to randomly sample those outside the religious community (atheist and spiritual alike) in order to gain input from the secular and non-religious components of Amsterdam’s “society.”  As for the prostitution option, this would be a bit simpler, constituting online research to discover health policies of the Netherlands’ government regarding prostitution and the individual health policies of “brothels and “vendors,” as well as individual surveys of those involved with prostitution, both customers and workers, as to their health specifically as it relates to the profession.

However, because our focus is on healthcare as a whole, we decided to visit the UW Medical Center (UWMC) with the thought of social research as a study of variables with definable measures (from the Ragin article).  As with most medical facilities in the U.S., the defining feature of the UWMC’s facade is that of sterility.  Everything in the main thoroughfares and waiting areas of the Medical Center proper is white or muted in tone.  Individual clinics in the center make decor decisions that focus more on making patients and family members comfortable with warm tones and lighting, but everything is always made to look clean.  A specific way that this is achieved is through the cleaning stations and pedestals sporting anti-septic hand wash at regularly-spaced and always readily apparent locations throughout the hospital, encouraging the notion that the environment is completely sterile, regardless of whether anyone uses the hand wash (a good metric for this relationship would be to ask hospital visitors their feelings on how clean specific locations in the hospital are and comparing this to the number of washing stations visible from that point).  Even the lighting, which focuses heavily on the use of natural and light fluorescent lighting gives the place the feeling of sterility.

The arrangement is not logical, but is simple, with an information desk right at the front of the lobby and the major hallway of the hospital extending the length of the Meical Center on either side of the desk.  Centers are aranged regularly around this thoroughfare and up the elevators on either end of the lobby, but the facade and the clean quality of the place are definitely the primary focus of the entry space of the UW Medical Center.


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