UCL Grand Challenges


The appropriation of smartphones among the ageing population in China

The appropriation of smartphones among the ageing population in China.

26 February 2017


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2016-17
Amount awarded: £3,900


This project investigates the Chinese ageing population's daily experience with age and health associated with the rise of smartphones. Ageing is not only biological, but also social and cultural. Contemporary Chinese society is of particular interest in re-thinking ageing as the shift from the Confucian based elderly-centric society to the youth-centric orientation that followed the one-child policy and market-oriented economic reformation, could hardly have been more radical. To fully understand the emerging new features of Chinese ageing population as well as the social impact of smartphones in dealing with the challenge of an aging society, we need to combine Wang's research on radical change in contemporary China observed through ethnography with Lo's expertise in the historical development of concepts of health and ageing.

Since early 2017 Xinyuan Wang has conducted three-week field work (March/April 2017) in Shanghai (China) among six households, and 17 individuals between age 45 to 70. During her research stay in Shanghai she also visited elderly universities to observe the lifelong education and participated a home care programme to gain first-hand material of elderly care in Shanghai. Wang also arranged a workshop at East China Normal University (Shanghai) to discuss the issue of Chinese elderly and ICTs use with relevant scholars and attended a workshop on photography and the daily image of Chinese elderly.

The team are looking to complete their research by combining Professor Lo's ongoing research on the historical visual culture of self-help into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the use of the moving image in self-care in China, in both film and social media. Meanwhile the ongoing online field work on elderly citizen forums and individuals' social media profiles also has led to achievements in visual material collection and further participant-observation with our informants. 

Outputs and impact

  • awaiting outputs and impact