NC researcher goes beyond the book in project studying effects of mass media on readers

 

Pictured: Lindsay Engel, research project manager.

Ever wonder what separates readers who flock to books recommended by Oprah or CBC Canada Reads, from those who deliberately avoid them?

For the past seven years, NC’s Lindsay Engel has been involved with a research project aimed at finding out.

Engel, who currently works as research project manager for NC’s Niagara Research and Innovation department, was a graduate student in Gerentology at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia when she first became involved with the project as a statistical consultant. She has been working with lead researcher Dr. DeNel Rheberg Sedo from Mount St. Vincent University and Dr. Danielle Fuller from the University of Birmingham in the U.K on the project ever since.

Launched with an online survey aimed at readers in 2005, the project examines the effects of mass media events on the culture of reading in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. It is funded by the National Research Council of Canada.

The team recently concluded the project. Some findings included:

•While many readers found the CBC to be “elitist” and wouldn’t read a book the CBC recommended, others would only read books the CBC recommended and Oprah didn’t.

•Some people only read books because Oprah recommended them. Oprah seems to promote reading among those who might not normally read. When she picked Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy became a best seller for the first time since the early 1900s.

•Readers who were swayed by CBC recommendations were more likely to have a post-secondary education and more money. However, those who didn’t like the CBC and found them “elitest” were also highly educated-they just preferred to make independent choices.

•Education affected how often a person read and how much they spent on books. “The more educated, the more likely they were to read, invest in reading, and spend more time reading,” said Engel.

•Impacts of mass media varied by site. Readers from Canada and the U.K. were more likely to be effected by mass media than Americans. “I think the CBC and BBC seem to be more ingrained into our culture in Canada and in the U.K,” she said.

•Women were more likely to be swayed by mass media in their reading choices than men.

An academic text, with the working title Beyond the Book Now, featuring the project findings is expected to be published in March 2013, and Engel will be listed as a contributor.

Engel, who has lived in Thorold since September 2011, has worked at NC since January 2012.

She is currently involved with several Fed Dev research projects at the College. She is working with St. Catharines-based Paper Nuts, which produces recycled packaging material, to redesign a machine so it can begin distributing across Canada; with Port Perry-based Durham Foods – the only company in Canada which grows hydroponic spinach – to develop an improved spinach harvesting machine; and with Grimsby’s Ryan Industrial on an application to patch potholes.

Engel says she enjoys her work with Niagara Research.

“The amazing thing is there’s always an opportunity to learn something new,” she said. “The great thing about having research skills is you can apply it to things that aren’t your background.”

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