In the Spotlight: Prof. dr. Carolien Rieffe

Prof. dr. Carolien RieffeCarolien Rieffe, researcher at the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities, is the principal investigator of the research lab "focus on emotions" in the unit Developmental and Educational Psychology at the Institute of Psychology at Leiden University. Rieffe is also a visiting professor at University College London (UCL – Institute of Education). Furthermore, she is Professor of Social Interaction Technology at the Department of Human Media Interaction of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, at the University of Twente. At Leiden University, Rieffe is chair of the Honours College advisory board, member of the LCDS (Leiden Center for Data Science) and a member of several committees on a national level.

Could you tell us more about your current research at the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities?

In close collaboration with my colleagues Dr. Alexander Koutamanis (Delft University of Technology and board member of the Centre for BOLD Cities), Dr. Sarah Giest (Leiden University) and Dr. Mitra Barachi (Leiden University), I work on a research project called Urban Environment for Vulnerable Youth. The focus in this project is on creating an inclusive school setting with and for adolescents with special needs (e.g. autism) during their unstructured leisure time at school. This project includes the specialisms psychology, psychiatry, policy making, data science and architecture (in urban spaces).

The idea for this project was born when the Dutch national ‘wet passend onderwijs’ (law for suitable education for each individual pupil) came out. This law aims to include all adolescents with special needs in mainstream education. Therefore, also kids with autism need to participate in regular education. Schools and the way education are currently organized does not fit this law yet. We have noticed during the covid lock down that the greater part of the pupils is able to learn at home perfectly. However, social and mental development of children and adolescents happens in schools. Pupils that cannot adapt or find their way in a group of children, will miss this experience in their personal development.

Our aim is to develop and design urban playgrounds in a way that it facilitates social interaction and at the same time cover individual differences and diversity. This should strengthen social inclusion. We examine how individual pupils use playgrounds, what social networks they participate in, what changes in the built environment can change this, whereby data science integrates all different sources of data that are collected.

In this project we collaborate with the department Kinderpsychiatrie Rotterdam at Erasmus Medical Centre and the city of The Hague and Rotterdam for their knowledge about the ‘wet passend onderwijs’.

Without the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities, this project would not have existed. The multidisciplinary meetings opened new perspectives and raised new research questions.’

What is the specific role of data science and urban architecture in this project?

We use tags/sensors to measure movements of kids at the urban playground. We connect this information with psychological aspects, the personal and social experience of the individual pupil during leisure time at school. Furthermore, we research the architectural part. For example, the playground could be next to a busy road, which creates too many incentives for a person with autism and might result in the adolescent only hanging out at the other side of the playground where the rest of the group might not be at all. We came up, for example, with the idea of a walking route for the pupil with autism in the playground to the entrance of the school which takes away a lot of stress and confusion.

How do you experience working on research at the Centre for BOLD Cities?

It is a positive challenge to communicate with different scientific disciplines and collaborate on this project. In this research it is necessary to bring various specializations together. All researchers are very motivated and driven. The project makes our specialisms fit together like a puzzle. Without the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities, this project would not have existed. The multidisciplinary BOLD Cities meetings opened new perspectives and raised new research questions.

‘Stichting School & Veiligheid’ (Foundation School & Safety) organizes the annual Week Against Bullying from 27 September until 1 October 2021. This years’ theme is very similar to the BOLD Cities project Urban Environment for Vulnerable Youth. It is about social exclusion of, for example, pupils with autism that are not taking part in the social groups at school. This does not necessarily happen on purpose and is difficult to recognize. However, it causes negative effect on the socially excluded kid. Enough reasons to create awareness! More information (in Dutch):

More information
Research Lab Focus on Emotions