A Case Study of a Reader: Mark

by Charles Wood

This web site was created to fulfill the requirements of the Capping Exercise (LIS 600) at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta. The paper was originally written for LIS 580, Contemporary Theories and Practices of Reading. The site was last updated July 14, 2006.

Introduction Reading Typologies "Normal" Reading Conclusion References Transcript


I thought of Mark immediately as an interesting subject for this case study of a reader. For one thing, I know that Mark is an avid reader of a wide variety of texts, and more broadly, he is an avid and thoughtful consumer of many “cultural products,” including music, film, television and the Internet. While I never intended to query him about his uses of other media, it was important to me that I find a participant that engaged in and enjoyed a wide variety of media. I felt that this was a worthwhile goal in that it helped assure me that I wasn’t asking my questions of a person for whom only books are important. The reason that I felt that this was important is stated succinctly by Peter Dickenson: “[…] a child, or anybody for that matter, should have a whole culture […] at his fingertips” (74). This isn’t to say that a reader that only valued very specific kinds of media wouldn’t be a valuable study, but that, in my own study, I wanted a reader who was familiar with a wider set of media.

Second, Mark’s work as a tradesman sets him apart from our usual preconceptions of the occupation of an avid reader. Received wisdom does not generally see an occupation in the trades as a site of significant reading. Mark, though he is more circumspect, accepts this notion to a small extent, mostly through his perception of other types of reading communities, rather than specifically through his assumptions about the trades.

In analyzing Mark’s responses regarding his reading behaviour, what becomes evident is that he sees his own reading as, to a certain extent, unusual, both as a member of the trades community and as a member of the wider society. His perceptions about the trades in particular question whether there is, in fact, a “normal” kind of reading standard in which he might place himself. While he seemed more willing to accept a “normal” type of reading that exists outside of his work, he placed himself outside of that community, and did so with a certain amount of pride. It is possible to see the complexity of Mark’s perceptions regarding reading in his workplace stemming from his familiarity with it, while other communities, with which he is less familiar, are sites with a more recognizable standard of reading.