The concepts of Image, Memory, Identity and Social Representation have different epistemological statuses. While the constructs of Image, Memory and Identity have been developed in many various research traditions by different paradigmatic approaches, the Social Representation theory allows to articulate them in a meaningful way. This is even more evident when Social Representations are investigated in relation to a complex object, like urban places and cities, assuming that all these dimensions are deeply interlaced. Images, Memory and Identity not only represent multifaceted components of the Social Representations of cities, but they are also deeply mediated by the relational, functional and emotional experience of urban places. These are environments organized according to socio-spatial, architectonic and structural rationales, where history leaves it mark through monuments, territory landmarks, social practices and transactional styles, becoming object of narratives, collective memories, shared experiences, affective investments, social practices influencing the exploration, use and evaluations of the places and their anticipatory experience via imagination.
Prof. Annamaria de Rosa has led a wide research program on first-visitors coming from different European and extra-European nations to eight capitals (Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Warsaw, Wien). Its multi-method research design is inspired by the Social Representations Theory and the Place Identity construct, investigating their relations mediated by various communication systems as anticipatory experience. One of the several dimensions under investigation is the comparison between imagined places (before the visit) and experienced places (after the visit) and the Social Representations of the capital cities and their historical centers, guided by a series of hypotheses regarding the stability and transformation of the Social Representations and their dimensional elements.
A comparative perspective on multiple levels (the imagined and experienced places before and after the visit, the Social Representations of the capital cities as a whole and their historical centers, the influence of the first-visitors belonging to different nationalities, the Representations of the European capital cities and the ideal city, etc.) will guide the analysis in order to identify peculiar dimensions in the construction and transformation of the Social Representations of the various European capitals through our sample of first-visitors.