29 August 2011

"In a sample of the residents interviewed, it was found that for above-ground dwellers of white-collar occupation, 4 out of 10 would be prepared to live in modern earth-covered housing compared to 8 out of 10 of the total sample. For these people, a large brick house was a cue to socioeconomic status. The fact that they chose to live above-ground despite the obvious drawbacks such as air-conditioners which were often inoperative due to irregular and uncertain power supply and clogging dust in fierce temperatures, suggest that some people must have had good reasons for so doing (as the lifestyle was adopted in spite of its obvious drawbacks.) Unfortunately these reasons were not investigated as they were not relevant to the subject of the research, but the following statements epitomize their attitudes: "I'm hot and miserable, but it's a good way to live—above-ground." "They're cooler underground and a lot more comfortable, but I still think above-ground is better." Most Australians and British people stated that they would live underground in modern earth-covered housing, whereas a high proportion of Greeks and Italians said they would not. Apart from the variables of racial origin the extreme climate was the main reason given for adopting the underground lifestyle, one English underground subject (U.Ss) commenting: sane sorts of people who want to get out the heat live underground." Approximately half of the residents of Coober Pedy lived above-ground and half underground; hence all either had experience with or at least knowledge of, the advantages and disadvantages of the underground lifestyle. Survey results indicated that 75 per cent of the population sample (including 50 per cent of the above-ground subjects, A.Ss) stated that, given the opportunity, they would live in modern earth-covered homes.
The sampling procedure followed was that of attempting to obtain an equal number of above and below-ground subjects. However, a disproportionate amount of time was spent in the field trying to equalise the numbers of above-ground subjects and underground subjects. Despite heroic efforts made on the part of interviewers when unbearable conditions prevailed (daily temperatures maxima ranging from 40 to 46 degrees C with dust storms blowing for half the period that the survey was in progress), and sometimes under threatening circumstances of savage guard dogs and gun-carrying home-owners, it was not possible to achieve equal sample numbers. Of all A.Ss approached, it was only possible to interview 26-per cent of them. When U.Ss were approached, without exception all agreed to be interviewed. The attitude of most U.Ss was open and enthusiastic. Even before the purpose of the survey as stated interviewers reported that a distinct attitudinal difference existed between A.Ss and U.Ss. A major proportion of A.Ss were suspicious, stating they thought the interviewer was a taxation official. Amongst those A.Ss who refused to be interviewed, there were some who were unexpectedly aggressive or abusive, those who slammed doors without speaking, those who shouted through closed doors: "Go away," and others who did not answer the doorknock even though sounds could clearly be heard from within. Most U.Ss gave their names freely and were eager to answer the questions and talking about living underground. (...)
That there were obvious differences towards the interviewers in the attitudes of most A.Ss compared to U.Ss was surprising. What could have caused these differences in attitude? Both sexes and a wide range of occupations, nationalities and age groups were represented in both groups. It seems reasonable to infer that environmental determinism of some type was operating. Although there were many variables involved, all environmental factors: heat, glare, drying winds, dust, geographic isolation, long periods of summer temperatures, and so on, would have been experienced by all respondents. However, the one factor that clearly separated the population of this multiracial township (52 nationalities were recorded) was the adopted mode of living. Occupants of conventional above-ground dwellings would have been more exposed to many of these environmental factors, while those in dugouts would have been comparatively sheltered.
To facilitate discussion on these observations, it is necessary to explain a concept originally proposed by Mehrabian and Russell, ad adopted here. Pleasure, arousal and dominance are considered as mediating variables (between environmental stimuli and resultant behavioural responses), and used to describe degrees of anxiety in relative terms of low pleasure, high arousal and low dominance. As used here, "pleasure," "arousal" and "dominance" have the following meanings:

"Pleasure: Pleasure/displeasure is a feeling state that can be...assessed with self-report...behavioural indicators...scored on a dimension of pleasantness...independent of their own arousal quality and dominance-submissiveness. Thus these cues provide an important behavioural end...pleasure is distinguished from preference, liking, positive reinforcement of approach-avoidance.
Arousal: A feeling state varying along a single dimension ranging from sleep to frantic excitement...most directly assessed by verbal report.
Dominance: Dominance-submissiveness is a feeling state that can be assessed from verbal reports...An individual's feeling of dominance in a situation is based on the extent to which he feels unrestricted or free to act in a variety of ways."

In the literature, certain environmental physical factors that have been associated with higher levels of arousal may have been influencing A.Ss. As A.Ss would have been subjected to an increased degree of exposure (compared to U.Ss), the possibility that this may have contributed to their attitude is discussed under the following headings:
1. Above-ground Subjects (A.Ss): Possible increased sensory stimulation from the environment due to conditions of: (a) low humidity; (b) high temperatures; (c) wind exposure; (d) glare and high levels of illumination; (e) positive air ionisation.
2. Underground Subjects (U.Ss): Possible decreased sensory stimulation from the environment due to conditions of: (a) absence of, or reduction in the number of windows; (b) noise attenuation; (c) heat and light, low intensity effects."

—Dr. Sydney A. Baggs "Environmental Factors Possibly Influencing Attitude in Australians Living in Above- and Below-Ground Dwellings in Arid Region Mining Town" in Report on the International Symposium on Earth Architecture, March 1986

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