Wednesday, April 22, 2015

University of Maryland’s Anthropology Department Explores Irish Immigration in Baltimore, Looks Forward to Sharing on Maryland Day

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephen Brighton
Archeologists from the University of Maryland unearthed a unique history of Irish immigrants in Baltimore from the nineteenth century in a series of field studies, called the Baltimore Archaeology Project. The Anthropology Department at the University is planning on sharing their findings in an exhibit at Maryland Day on April 25, 2015.

Early Irish immigrants to Baltimore were responsible for limestone that can still be found in buildings and monuments today.

The project took place in an abandoned village named Texas, in modern-day Baltimore C
ounty, about twelve miles north of Baltimore City. The archeology team from the University of Maryland worked on the site for three summers, exploring a quarry in the town.

University of Maryland anthropologist, Dr. Stephen Brighton, who became involved with the project through a descendent of the Texas village, runs the Baltimore Archeology Project. Texas was predominately a limestone-harvesting town; the limestone was used across Maryland and Washington, D.C.

As Dr. Brighton explains, the
bottom of the Washington
Monument has limestone from
Texas, MD, creating a color

The Irish laborers at the time were also predominately responsible for the construction of the Baltimore-Ohio Railroad in the nineteenth century.

Although the Irish laborers in Texas played a huge part in building the infrastructure of much of Maryland as well as supplying the Washington Monument and U.S. Captiol, Brighton says their voices are lost in history. The anthropologist even says he became interested in Texas simply because no one else was.

The excavation site in Texas, Maryland, is the first to explore the culture of Baltimore’s early Irish laborers.

According to periodicals from the time, Irish immigrants were pretty unwelcome when they migrated to the United States, and were met with much racial prejudice. There were many negative stereotypes associated with any kind of immigrant at the time, but the Irish were considered uncivilized, unskilled, and impoverished. They were forced to work the most undesirable jobs and live in the most undesirable places.

Although Brighton shares tales of finding Baltimore-sized rats during his excavation project, many of the artifacts recovered from the site show a unique side of the lives of the unskilled, poor immigrant laborers of the time.   

Artifacts from Texas, MD, including
ceramic pieces, a marble, a doll's head,
and a lice comb.
Some of the artifacts include:      
  • Ceramics (including pieces of bowls, teacups, serving pieces) 
  • Buttons
  • Religious items & medals
  • Doll parts
  • Dominoes
  • Marbles
  • Writing slates & pencils
  • Lice combs
  • Smoking pipes

      These artifacts, although seemingly useless, told the archeologists in Baltimore much about the private and community lives of the Irish immigrants.

      Brighton concludes that the items combat some of the stereotypes and proved that the Irish laborers of Texas did have a material culture. The ceramics and buttons show that the immigrants were more civilized than thought prior. The lice comb also proves there was a sense of hygiene in Texas.

      The uncovered artifacts also told the archeologist much about the life of Irish immigrant children during the nineteenth century. The time was pre-child labor laws, and children were largely expected to work, but the artifacts, like marbles and dolls, show that the Irish immigrants preserved at least some sense of childhood. Uniquely, there was a school in the Irish quarry, so young children were not expected to work until later, but instead learn.
     “The idea that we take for granted and don’t necessarily think about is a child in this environment having any kind of leisure time,” Brighton comments. 

The archeologist discusses his most interesting find from Texas.

Irish immigrants had a large impact on Maryland history, and the University of Maryland Archeology Department will share that history at Maryland Day.

Brighton explains that archeology provides the descendants of Texas with a medium to explore the culture of their ancestry as well as connect as a community. He says actually doing the archeology creates the attention necessary to join those descendants from across the country. 

One of the main philosophies of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland is continuing field work by collaborating with communities, and as a flagship University, it is incredibly important to see that field work positively affect the people of the state.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephen Brighton
The Baltimore Archeology Project will be featured at the Anthropology Department's tent at Maryland Day to share the huge impact that the Irish immigrants from Texas had on Maryland history. Brighton says the limestone from the Irish laborers can be found all over the state:

  • Every limestone stair in"quintessential" Baltimore row homes 
  • Porticos in Maryland State House and Capital Building 
  • Washington Monument in Baltimore 
  • Marble and limestone buildings at the University of Maryland 
At Maryland Day, visitors can look at the Baltimore Archeology Project's exhibit, which will show artifacts from Texas, Maryland. Archeologists from the department will also be there to answer questions and share a mock excavation site. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Feelings of loneliness and depression create lack of self-control when binge-watching Netflix, especially in young adults

College students have forever been infamous for their binge drinking and out of control drug habits. But something else is becoming incredibly common among people this age—binge-watching Netflix; but curling up with a computer to watch television may not be as harmless as it seems.

University of Texas at Austin researchers discovered a link between binge-watching Netflix and higher levels of depression and loneliness in young adults.

The term “binge-watching,” as defined by Netflix, is the practice of watching two to six episodes of the same television show in one sitting. According to another survey, half of the American population with television streaming services admits to binge-watching in some capacity. In 2013, the wildly popular online streaming service reported that a staggering 73% of users have positive feelings about this practice of binge-watching.

These positive feelings may be misplaced. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin actually discovered a link between binge-watching Netflix and feelings of depression and loneliness, as well as a lack of self-control.

The study, which surveyed over 300 18-29 year-olds, found that the more lonely and/or depressed someone is, the more likely he or she is to binge-watch television online. The researchers state that much like other addictive behaviors, people use Netflix as an escape from their problems.

University of Maryland Associate Professor and Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the university, Dr. Jen Goldbeck, questions the validity of the study, not based on its methodology, but its final conclusions.

The professor also disagrees with the conclusion by the University of Texas researchers that says Netflix is a way for people to avoid social interaction.

Figure 1
A survey of University of Maryland students with the streaming service brings a different perspective of strictly college-aged participants (See Figure 1) to the University of Texas study. Note the high level of those who sometimes binge-watch and correlating amount of those sometimes feeling lonely and/or depressed. At the same time, though, notice that those who answered they often binge-watch had lower levels of loneliness and depression.

So what is the reason for the disconnect when it comes to college students?

On college campuses, the likelihood to binge-watch correlates to other behaviors that indicate a lack of self-control, like excessive drinking or drug use.

Any Netflix user knows that deciding moment: you’ve finished watching an episode of a dramatic television show and that screen pops up. That notorious screen asking if you want to watch the next episode with that enticing play button staring back at you while that timer ticks down from meager fifteen seconds pressuring you to make your decision to keep watching or not. Netflix is famous for its ability to get users to watch episode after episode, and according to research, this might be playing on certain users’ lack of self-control.

The University of Texas at Austin researchers also found that those who possessed lower levels of self-control were more likely to be unable to say no to the “Next” screen after an episode ended, even when they had other obligations.                                                                       

The lack of self-control is correlated with other addictive behaviors like binge drinking and even heavy social media use in people trying to cope with feelings of loneliness and depression.

Goldbeck says that although there may be a correlation between college binge behavior and binge-watching television, that does not mean there is a link between the two. 

Figure 2
At the University of Maryland, when asked about their drinking and Netflix patterns, there was a strong correlation between the two categories (See Figure 2). For the most part, those who demonstrated self-control when using Netflix used the same amount of control when it came to alcohol. On the same hand, those who demonstrated a lack of self-control when using Netflix also could not control themselves as well when drinking alcohol.

Many blame the college environment for its encouragement of binge behaviors.

College can be stressful to almost any student on any campus across the country. Balancing classes, a social life, and extracurricular activities, all while living on their own for the first time, is challenging for many. A university senior talks about how the environment of college life affects her schoolwork. 

According to a 2006 study of 675 second-year university students, there is a proven positive correlation between high stress levels, from things such as examination scores, with low levels of self-control.

Over half of the University of Maryland students surveyed said that the environment of college greatly affected their level of self-control when it came to binge-drinking, consuming drugs, overeating, and sleeping through obligations. 

When it comes to any type of binge behavior, whether it be binge-watching Netflix or over-drinking alcohol, a lack of self-control is at the center of the overindulgence. And when it comes to college campuses, stress, depression, and loneliness all play a role in allowing that lack of self-control to take over.   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

College students face trade-offs between convenience and price when planning spring break trips 

Spring break: a light at the end of the tunnel for college students across the country as they deal with the stress of school and harsh winter weather. Starting in just a few weeks, hoards of these excited young adults will file onto planes and journey to one of the many destinations offering escape from their busy schedules and freezing temperatures. But spring break presents an issue for many of these students: its cost. While some splurge on group trips to exotic destinations, others hunt for trips that won’t break the bank.

Pre-planned group trips offer convenience but are a splurge for some

Many college students opt for the convenient option of group trips that are pre-planned by a travel agency. These trips parallel that of a luxury vacation: an all-inclusive resort, an international destination, and exclusive nightlife.

Students like senior dietetics major Erin Goldstrom opt for these types of trips for their convenience and assurance they will be surrounded by their peers.

These group trips, although convenient, deter certain students because of their price range. Usually running around $1500, the international trips are definitely a splurge for some.

Domestic travel allows for students to still get the most out of their spring break without breaking the bank

Students that cannot afford the expensive option of an international group trip have more work cut out for them when planning their spring break vacations. By not working with a travel agency, these students have to pick a hotel, flight, and destination. When planning their own spring break trips, students will most likely pick a domestic vacation spot, usually a beach town in Florida.

Students like senior communication major Stella Gordon-Zigel are forced to get creative with their spring break plans to save money.

When planning their own trips, students can customize their vacation experience by spending money on those aspects that they value the most.  

Although exotic trips may seem to pricey, there are ways that students can still manage to afford them

There are also ways that college students can still travel to exotic destinations without breaking the bank, but when it comes to saving money, it is all in the planning. Many students will forgo a trip altogether out of fear of the cost, but there are easy tips to get the best value out of a spring break.
  • Pick the hotel wisely. Book a room that has certain amenities, like refrigerators and microwaves, and take advantage of them. Eating out can rack up a vacation bill quickly.
  • One word: complimentary. Even one free meal can cut down on the daily cost of a vacation, so try to find a hotel has a complimentary breakfast or complimentary appetizers.
  • Keep an eye on the going rates. A booked flight or hotel room price could possibly plummet later; in which case, it is easy to cancel and rebook.
  • Take a risk and wait it out, but only when it comes to the hotel. Flights usually need to be purchased two weeks in advance, but there are websites solely devoted to last-minute hotel deals.

When it comes to spring break, there are endless options that students take advantage of when planning their trips. And when it comes to pricing, students also have numerous choices within their differing budgets.