Place @-Branding and European Capitals: “City Visiting Cards” via Municipal Websites, Virtual Tours of Significant Places Flying with Google Earth, and Conversational Exchanges about City-Places Experienced/Imagined via Social Networks

Place @-Branding and European Capitals: “City Visiting Cards” via Municipal Websites, Virtual Tours of Significant Places Flying with Google Earth, and Conversational Exchanges about City-Places Experienced/Imagined via Social Networks

Annamaria Silvana de Rosa (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) and Elena Bocci (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4430-4.ch006
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Abstract

This chapter extends the concept of place branding and applies it to the digital world of the Internet (place @-branding). Among the various environments of the complex digital universe of the Internet, the chapter deals in particular with (1) Websites as vehicles of images, representations, evaluations of places, and (2) social networks as spaces for the exchange and sharing of “lived” or “imagined” experiences of places by past-visitors and potential first-visitors. The analysis of place@-branding via Websites and social networks is based on empirical research data that targets various historic European capitals (Rome, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Warsaw, Vienna). The social representations of these cities are investigated by comparing: 1) their institutional Websites; 2) virtual tours made by Google Earth; 3) conversations among the members of two social networks (Facebook and Yahoo! Answers) on elements of interest concerning social representations and the “lived” or “imagined” experiences of these cities as first visitors (past-visitors) or potential ones (future first-visitors). The nature of these conversations is induced or spontaneous according to communicative constraints imposed by the two social networks by means of a series of piloted questions (in the case of Yahoo! Answers) and a selective focus on spontaneous communicative exchanges (in the case of Facebook).
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Introduction

Our research on city-marketing via the Internet, exploring the contribution of new internet-based communication systems to psychosocial research in different forms and through different channels, with the focus on communication applied to the field of tourism, contributes to expanding the agenda for future research by environmental psychologists in the Internet era outlined by Stokols and Montero (2002) and Misra and Stokols (2011).

It is a further development of a broad research programme on Place-identity and Social Representations of European Capitals in first visitors of six different nationalities begun by de Rosa in the 1990s (see e.g. de Rosa, 1995; 1997, 2010a, 2010b, 2013c). The first wave research, based on a multi-method modelling approach (de Rosa, 2013b), has been subject to follow-up field study conducted in Rome at a distance of some decades and then extended to further historic European capitals (Paris, Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Warsaw, Vienna), starting with a first comparative study between Rome and Paris (de Rosa, 2010a, 2010b, 2013b; de Rosa and d’Ambrosio, 2009, 2010, 2011; de Rosa, Dryjanska & Bocci, 2012).

In this article we present a selection of empirical findings based on three further different, but interrelated research lines aimed at detecting:

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