Wenqian Xu obtained a master’s degree in Journalism and Communication (Media Economics Track) in 2017 at Renmin University of China.

He worked at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China office and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). During his PhD fellowship, he was seconded to Tampere University and UNESCAP. He is currently affiliated to the National Graduate School on Ageing and Health (SWEAH) as a PhD student.

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Ageism in the media 

Xu's PhD dissertation aims to improve our understanding of ageism in the social media used by organizations. 

Ageism is often seen as a social problem that needs to be tackled, referring to stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people based on their age. Ageism is pervasive and evident in various social institutions, such as work and employment, health care, advertising and the media.

The media (e.g., films, television, print and social media) often echoes and reinforces ageist images of older people by misrepresenting them in a prejudiced way. Many organizations have started using social media in our contemporary society, while few studies have investigated the way in which organizations represent older people in social media.

Ageism in social media

The PhD dissertation aims to improve our understanding of ageism in the social media used by organizations. Drawing upon the theoretical perspectives of ageism and institutional logics, it investigates the research questions including what social media representations of older people can be seen, how social media content about older people are produced in organizations, and what institutional elements might contribute to generating those representations. This investigation is accomplished by conducting content and thematic analysis of social media data as well as thematic analysis of interview data.

As shown in the findings, the organizations under question mainly cast light on the bright side of later life by mainly representing older people (including those in supportive care) as being socially engaged and relatively healthy; additionally, they tended to emphasize older people’s responsibility to recognize and confront the challenges they face, which indicates a form of ageism rooted in neoliberalism.

Social media logic and other institutional logics were translated and intertwined in the work practices and beliefs related to content production in organizations, which led to institutionalised ageism.

The dissertation may help generate evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice in the field of ageism to inspire more thoughtful and nuanced online representations of older people and later life.

Research group

This PhD research is conducted within the International Training Network EuroAgeism.

It is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764632.

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