City Identity As A Personality Identity Parameter


The purpose of this article is to present the urban environment as a parameter of personal identity, to review the main factors of urban identity that correlate personality parameters and the formation of its value system, to consider the possible relationship between urban and individual personality identities. First, approaches to the concept of personality identity are considered and the urban environment is defined as a significant factor in the formation of personality behavior patterns. Empirical studies of the urban environment of different regions of the planet that are related to the processes of personality formation are considered. Based on the analysis of literary sources and statistical data, the hypothesis is the identification of a person in an urban environment as a process of institutionalizing social and personal innovations in a city’s space, which can be strategically planned and supported by urban space design tools. Accepting the definition of personality as a unique, unique side of a person, we defined the identification process as a change in the process of social interactions, which are determined not only by society but also by the environment, geographical space, and territory of residence. A functional matrix of the urban environment has been built, which determines the formation of the personality's value system. Authors proposed a matrix variant of the influence of urban identity parameters on the main personality identity characteristics. In conclusion, possible options for future research and the formation of the theory of urban axiology are discussed.

Keywords: City identityurban identitypersonality identityplace belongingsocial environment


The system of cultural coordinates of modern society is in an unstable, non-equilibrium state, which is due, first of all, to a sharp transformation of socio-political realities. Today, traditional ideas and values lose their meaning for the individual because they cannot be identified in sociocultural reality. There is an external association of people that does not eliminate the alienation of people from each other. The significance of the work is that modern man has realized that he lives in a dynamic, permeable world of “fluid modernity” with weak connections between subjects (superficial and short-term), with enormous freedom arising from these circumstances, which is manifested primarily in the fact that his interests are no longer firmly connected with a specific society and specific territory. Global clashes between “fluid” and “solid” societies in the world, gaining the “fluidity” properties and greater immobility and closure by societies and social groups lead to changes in social reality, while socially ideologically saturated, constructing a picture of the world using mass communication is often openly manipulative, causes the individual a complex set of feelings and emotions, generates a need to determine his place in a changing world (Gornova, 2018). The search for one identity as a conscious experience of one’s belonging to various social groups shows that the mechanisms and consequences of the formation and self-determination of individuals in social groups have acquired new foundations or substantially transformed the traditional parameters and criteria of personality identity.

According to the established tradition, in modern studies, there are two types of personality identity structures: parametric and categorical. In categorical structures of social identity, Cameron (2004) emphasizes centrality; ingroup effect; and ingroup ties. Jackson (2002) in the group identity model includes - consisting of a cognitive, evaluative, and affective-ties component, where separately in the structure of the cognitive component includes the achieved level of self-categorization, depersonalization, and metacontrast. For our study, an important model is Luhtanen and Crocker (1992) which allows assessing individual differences in collective, rather than personal, self-esteem, with four subscales, highlighting the degree of group reference for the individual and the significance of the group in the structure of the self-image. On the other hand, social identities are described through the characteristics of the main groups into which a person joins in the course of his life and belonging to which he is aware of. According to theories of social psychology, people psychologically assimilate their social group membership, and the social processes of identification in a group influence their cognition, affect, motivation and work, leadership, as well as activity and innovation, including productivity, attitude to work and professional well-being (Zacher et al., 2019). As you can see, applying the theory of social psychology in the problem of personality identity, researchers nevertheless share a social and personal identity.

The theory of identification, which has already become classical, by the nature of its subject orientation, (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) divides identification into personal and social, takes into account that the situation, people's experience, behaviour, and any other interaction is determined by their characteristics, i.e. personal qualities. These personality traits are determined by emotional experience, which is obtained as a result of self-control and external constraints, most of all, fixing behaviour patterns. Such external factors are the urban environment, place of residence, which is a certain way determine personal values, thereby determining the direction of personal identification.

Identity theorists argue that cognitive and affective aspects make it possible to distinguish between urban and social identities and correlate them with personality self-assessment systems. For example, the orientation of residents of megalopolises on material values and self-realization is considered traditional, and residents of small settlements - on ethical values and self-development. The explanation for this statement is the theory of social comparison when people evaluate certain personal positions value in comparison with successful members of a social group (Pravotorova & Kondratyeva, 2018).

With a difference in external conditions, i.e. quality of life in a metropolis and a small city, an indicator of subjective assessment often does not coincide with identity stereotypes. Leontyev (2020) research shows that the objective life quality affects self-identification indicators of a person only to a limited extent because not the highest quality of life can be compensated by the meaningfulness of the subject himself, based on his potential. At the same time, the measurement of personal well-being, not psychological experience, but the objective equipment of a person with psychological characteristics highlighted by Ryff (1989), for example, self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, control over the environment, the purposefulness of life, personal growth can be adjusted by the parameters of the identity of the place of residence. An analysis of the parameters and correlations between the personality identity parameters and their correlation with the place identity, their study in the context of well-being and troubles, comfort and discomfort can determine the marginal effects of the urban environment on the positive personality functioning and the formation of external conditions that can mitigate the adverse psychological impact of the external environment.

Problem Statement

A city is a space in which people equip their lives, accumulate experience and acquire a sense of identity (Kogan, 1990). When a city changes rapidly, form new functional spaces, changes its stable functionality and forms a new “quality of place” (Florida, 2019), then the components of urban space that determine the formation of urban identity also change. Urban identity breaks up into many local identities, in which the individual faces the problem of choosing the direction for his own identity. Citizens, identifying themselves with one of the local social groups, choose for themselves their landmarks, which are closely related to personal ideas, value orientations, and cultural traditions. At the same time, they support the urban community, filling the urban space with social and cultural practices embodied in everyday life. Hence the urban environment, measured by Florida (2019), as there is (a combination of nature and architectural environment); who is there (different communities, their interaction); what happens there (street energy, culture and the atmosphere of the place, art, active creative activity) can be considered as a parameter of personality formation, which under certain conditions can replace the parameter of cultural identity.

But modern studies of urban identity tend to focus on solving internal political and social problems. And they see the nature of the emerging dysfunctions in the formation of urban identity in capitalist relations, the economic basis of the city’s existence, creating the inevitable imbalance between economically developed and backward regions (Soja, 1989). Such measurements inevitably characterize the city not as a “place for people” or “space for life”, but as a “growth machine” or a source for profit (most often short-term). Therefore, the problem of urban identity develops into a problem of self-identity and ways of expressing personality through reading the place.

The demographic aspect of understanding urban culture is also of great importance for solving the problem of personal identity. This aspect is directly related to the problem of self-realization through creativity in the conditions of depopulation and the deep demographic crisis of modern cities. Megacities are becoming increasingly crowded, and small areas are gradually becoming empty. A significant contribution to the growth of the population of large cities is made by the influx of residents of the periphery who bring with them mechanisms of creative self-realization that are different from urban understanding. So, for example, according to the Federal State Statistics Service as of January 1, 2019, the migration growth in St. Petersburg amounted to 27,776 people, which is comparable to the outflow of the population for the year in the Siberian Federal District, - 28,966 people. Such migration also has serious consequences for small settlements: small cities in the Russian countryside begin to age quickly, the average age of the population increases in them, and the coefficient of demographic load increases (people under 14 and over 60). Thus, in large cities, competition between ways to realize the creative potential, which leads to the appearance of chaotic layouts of space where the corresponding marginal and criminal personalities gather, is becoming increasingly widespread. In small towns, the outflow of young and talented residents is gradually leading to cultural devastation.

Research Questions

Identity is an interdisciplinary category, has a long tradition of studying a whole range of philosophical sciences, psychology, sociology, history, political science and several other theoretical disciplines. In this research tradition, there is already a consensus regarding the allocation of the main components in the structure of identity. The essential problematics of urban identity is due to the very transitive nature of identity since the actualization and conceptualization of identity occur during periods of personal and social changes that are difficult to experience and accompanied by a sense of loss of the existential grounds of being. Since the transitivity of identity implicitly contains semantic antinomic, the dialectic of stability and variability, constancy and variability is an adequate methodological basis for the analysis of identity.

Despite the abundance of various characteristics and definitions of the concepts of “personality”, for our purposes, we can point out several of the main ones filtered by time. First of all, by a person and an individual, they understand the unique, inimitable side of a person. However, it can be noted that although objectively each person is truly unique and inimitable, culturally and socially, he may not show this uniqueness, merging with millions of his kind in the social environment and social space. This approach allows us to consider the identity of the person determining the coordinates of his world through a change in the process of social interactions. Urban identity can be interpreted as an internal attachment of a person to his place of life, as an emotional and at the same time social connection, which is formed as a result of multiple interactions with both the urban environment and society (Eremenko, 2019).

The study is based on an understanding of identity as a complex phenomenon, with several elements and a layered structure, where the geographical image and regional identity are very close concepts. If the concept of a geographical image focuses on creating some kind of synthetic structure that should represent a region or a country as brightly and economically as possible, then in the second concept the main thing is to find strong and close ties that root local communities and individuals, to show self-identification procedures in which the image of the region can be represented as the images of people who inhabit and develop this territory. The common feature in both cases is the attention to the geographical space, which acts as the coveted, completely unattainable and yet quite a real equivalent of various social and cultural dreams. Regional identity affects the existence of convex and stable figurative-geographical compositions, and a well-developed space is identified as a system of regional and original images.

Thus, the city as an object of a value situation has many of features. First of all, it gives an occasion for experience, as it is a combination of events - something always happens in a city, happened earlier or will happen in the expected near or guessing distant future. Also, certain aspects of the objective reality of the city: the social environment, the material environment, the historical environment, the urban lifestyle itself with its inherent real or illusory capabilities — are marked with value for a person. In value terms, the objective and subjective reality of the city are combined. The value attitude of the subject of the value situation to the city as an object of the value situation is one of the factors in the formation of urban identity. The concept of urban identity implies the presence of common traits typical of citizens. Urban identity is associated with the citizens' perception of the place’s uniqueness.

The space of a social group is determined by culturally significant buildings. These buildings do not necessarily have architectural value but retain cultural significance as they can be associated with traditions, history and cultural identity (Mwale & Lintonbon, 2019). For the group, the old school, the stadium, and even the tree planted once upon a time can be significant. The layout of the space, color, light, size of structures, i.e. all that has semantic meaning is a cultural code that forms personal guidelines. The modern city, following the trends of globalization, is losing its uniqueness. Design algorithms are set by the processes of the information space - environmental factors, social and economic parameters, communication interactions, value characteristics, etc., destroy systems of semantic guidelines and means of assessment, destroy the uniqueness of the urban environment. The same type of urban space appears, which can be distinguished, perhaps, only by the difference in vegetation (Figure 01 ).

Figure 1: Playgrounds in the yards: а) Casablanca (Morocco) b) Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Playgrounds in the yards: а) Casablanca (Morocco) b) Krasnoyarsk, Russia
See Full Size >

To create a genuine identity of a place in the era of layering space and information, where each zone should be active, is a rather difficult task. Therefore, nostalgia is understandable, when the uniqueness of space provided the opportunity to form a unique personality associated with both the past (through the natural and ecological space) and the future (through the space of life). The spiritual and moral space of the house, courtyard, the street was an organic synthesis of figurative and symbolic landmarks, a synthesis of the architectural past and present, the maintenance of spiritual development and personal upbringing (moral and moral values, traditions and landmarks), taking into account cultural, national, philosophical and historical features. Cultural satisfaction of primary needs imposes secondary or derivative imperatives on the individual (Malinovsky, 2015). By analogy with this, we can assume that there are basic functions of the urban environment (unification, restoration, development) that are extremely important for maintaining the life of the city as a whole, as well as secondary (derived from the basic), the implementation of which allows us to judge not only the development of the city the quality of the urban environment and its friendliness but also about the fulfillment by it of the subjective functions demanded identification of a person as in Table 01 .

Table 1 -
See Full Size >

It is important that the human perception of the environment is a subjective cognitive process, and does not correspond to reality. Properties and objects of the surrounding world is a complex of spatial-subject relations, which allows self-identification in life. The visible environment is the ethical and aesthetic perception of life and an important factor in moral self-determination and self-affirmation of the individual. In the course of the analysis of works on identifying environmental impact factors on a person, the relationship between stress factors that do not directly affect the personality, but which influence the formation of the personality type, is traced. Such factors highlighted the multi-story administrative and residential buildings, psychologically “pressing” on a person; inconvenience and pollution of the urban environment, leading to vandalism; a lot of unfamiliar people are the okrug and others. The concept of “sadness of new cities” fully reflects (Voronkov, 1999) the difficulties of adapting people to the monotonous new buildings architecture, expressed in people the disunity and estrangement.

A person intuitively adjusts and adapts to the environment, social perception by the personality of the place of residence. Self-identification is achieved by carrying out a personal existential project, which is defined by the categories of the desired and vital for the individual and inhibits environmental factors. Such a project is formed in childhood, when events and actions are given value in adults, who convey the context of the event to the future, determining the consequences for themselves and the child. At the same time, the place-identity forces one to accept either a low intensity and quality of desires, or make efforts to be at the level of claims of the surrounding world. The surrounding space of numerous studies of the sense of place and place attachment shows that the place of childhood determines patterns of behavior in the future. The sense of belonging - a sense of home, makes you organize your future home, in the image and likeness of the family. A person’s positive or negative attitude to a place is formed as part of personal identity, and in the future, as memories, feelings, and experiences related to the past, the present is transferred to the future place of residence (daily life settings). Therefore, since childhood, urban identity includes “fitting” into a specific environment (space and conditions of existence), which also determine the correlation with social groups that are associated with a given territory (social class, neighborhood). Having adopted the rules of urban identity, the person begins to be included in all types of space, accepting one and rejecting the other. But if all spaces are of the same type, gray high-rise buildings, standard playgrounds, and sports grounds, extremely clearly structured public spaces, then the result is a loss of the semantics of a place, a loss of the basic elements of urban space: paths, borders, landmarks. And to get these guidelines, residents have to choose - either make an effort, independently develop their place of residence, achieve a decent standard of living, or remain in a state of “learned helplessness”, reduce their desires, watch how everything falls into decay. In both cases, the person learns the intensity and quality of life that corresponds to the choice of the social group with which she identifies herself.

The outer urban space plasticity parameters concerning the townspeople’sperception allow you to design places that can prevent aggressive actions and form “protective” mechanisms. The well-known theory of broken windows by Wilson and Kelling (1982), which, although criticized, works well in our case. If at the initial stage of the formation of moral motives of the personality, a chaotic space surrounds it, destroyed images that cannot be interpreted in signs of culture, then the cognitive map of the person does not receive a qualitative image of reality. The incompleteness of the image is replicated in later life, strange cities appear, neglected urban spaces that continue to expand. At the same time, the emergence of new management technologies, improving the economic indicators of living standards, do not save the situation. The personality has an upper limit, a psychological norm, its concept of normality and social self-esteem, as it is shown in Table 02 . Therefore, it is important to understand that people follow the lifestyle of the community to which they want to belong. Actions to improve the urban environment are quite capable of correcting destructive trends and directing the person towards a positive identity.

Table 2 -
See Full Size >

Purpose of the Study

Based on the symbolic nature of identity, we put forward the thesis that personal identification in an urban environment is a process of institutionalization of social and personal innovations in the city space, which can be strategically planned and supported by urban space design tools.

The object of study is the process of personal identification in an urban environment. The purpose of the study is the determination of the urban environment factor influence on the personality identity and the formation of its value system process, consideration of the question of the possible urban and individual personality identity correlation.

Research Methods

For research, we used open informational analytical materials and data from The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center monitoring studies related to research issues.


It can be assumed that the reaction to the unexpected and increased variability of the world will for some time become the prevalence of conservative tendencies, the desire for stability, the desire to gain a foothold in a changeable world, therefore, a “solid” identity that can be support will be in demand. Best of all, this function can be performed by territorial identity, since in the literal sense of the word, it can allow taking root. An important factor in the formation of regional identity is the history of the region, which is interpreted and reflected in specific categories: “great people” of the region, monuments, rituals, special memorable dates, place names, etc. (Volkogonova & Belousov, 2009). The analysis of scientific works on regional identity allows us to draw conclusions about the main directions of studying this phenomenon, determine a system of indicators, and outline options for expanding research tools. The use of frame analysis seems to be heuristic (Zeletdinova et al., 2019). The classical ideas of I. Hoffmann about frames (Goffman, 1974), which are simultaneously both “interpretation schemes” and “a matrix of possible events” (Wachstein, 2007) today find a new interpretation, including about the analysis of different types of identities.


For a fundamental study of the problem posed, it is necessary to conduct a fairly serious collection of empirical material. Unfortunately, in many modern domestic studies, they are not enough. The fact is that western theories are often used that grow out of their particular environment, while others use those materials for this frame. Any efforts, including reflexive ones, require certain energy costs, therefore, the ideas that form the value-semantic component are often out of direct awareness and of a clear articulation of a person. The value-semantic component of urban identity is formed as the result of cognitive and affective components. The personal value ideas of the townspeople about the city during its historical development are concentrated in the existential paradigm of the city in the form of objectified forms of urban culture - urban ideals, myths, and metaphors.

In the framework of the value approach, the phenomenal side of urban axiology is fixed - the city as a value for the subject of experience (city dweller) and the noumenal side - the value of the city, which exists objectively and does not depend on the individual subject. The structure of the value situation, concretized concerning the city, includes the subject of the value situation (a person who has certain feelings and feelings to the city), the city as an object of the value situation, and the value relation connecting the person and the city. Value attitude is one of the factors in the formation of urban identity.


Copyright information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this article

Publication Date

21 October 2020

eBook ISBN



European Publisher



Print ISBN (optional)


Edition Number

1st Edition




Economics, social trends, sustainability, modern society, behavioural sciences, education

Cite this article as:

Vinogradova, A. I., Gorodishcheva, A. N., Fomina, Y. V., & Uskova, S. V. (2020). City Identity As A Personality Identity Parameter. In I. V. Kovalev, A. A. Voroshilova, G. Herwig, U. Umbetov, A. S. Budagov, & Y. Y. Bocharova (Eds.), Economic and Social Trends for Sustainability of Modern Society (ICEST 2020), vol 90. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1578-1587). European Publisher.