On Friday 21 September 2012, Dr Katrina Pritchard and Dr Rebecca Whiting from the Department of Organizational Psychology will be holding a seminar at Birkbeck to present findings and insights from their research on age at work.
In September 2011 we began a year-long project, funded by the Richard Benjamin Trust, to map the language of age at work, using web-based data. It has involved collecting stories, accounts, images and discussions about age at work published on the internet, for example online news media, blogs, tweets and other electronic forms. We decided to adopt this novel research approach to address both the lack of discourse studies that use web-based data and the increasing dissatisfaction with current conceptualisations of age based on chronology.
The voices in our data include campaign and lobby groups, labour market intermediaries, job seekers, government, professional bodies, employers, charities, academics, recruitment and management consultants and the press. The conversations have covered topics such as age, gender and aesthetic labour; the discursive construction of generations; and the ‘weary woman.’
We have adopted an inclusive approach to defining ‘age at work’ by examining how people are talked about in relation to both ‘age’ (younger, older etc) and ‘work’ (employment, unemployment, under-employment etc). This has also involved looking beyond the terms ‘young’ and ‘old’ to consider particular concepts such as generations and the inter-relationships between them.
Both the media and academia have tended to present certain issues as either impacting or being caused by specific generations, for example the effect of the ‘baby boomers’ on subsequent generations; or the ‘lost generation’, namely the young unemployed affected by the credit crunch of 2008 onwards.
We are now in the early stages of examining our data and we expect more to emerge as we continue our analysis. The seminar is a starting point at which we will share our initial thoughts with other researchers and with practitioners and others working in this field.
By following various conversations, we have looked at how identities are co-constructed across web-based media, for example, the entanglement of age and gender constructions in discussions of competence with technology or aesthetic labour. We have also been examining how emerging media are implicated in the practices and processes of constructing ‘generations’ in debates on age and employment.
Organizational management and educational, employment and retirement policy within the UK are tied to various conceptualisations of age. Our research will be able to provide a basis for examining the limitations of current thinking in this area. We aim to open up opportunities to explore new ways of talking about age at work as well as to address methodological challenges and insights from our e-research project.
Age at Work seminar: 21 September
A limited number of places are still available. Attendance is free but booking is required.
More information about the seminar, including how to register, is available on the project’s research blog.