The image of the City on social media: A comparative study using “Big Data” and “Small Data” methods in the Tri-City Region in Poland

Jianxiang Huang, Hanna Obracht-Prondzynska, Dorota Kamrowska-Zaluska, Yiming Sun, Lishuai Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


“The Image of the City” by Kevin Lynch is a landmark planning theory of lasting influence; its scientific rigor and relevance in the digital age were in dispute. The rise of social media and other digital technologies offers new opportunities to study the perception of urban environments. Questions remain as to whether social media analytics can provide a reliable measure of perceived city images? If yes, what implication does it hold for urban planners? This paper describes a study on the perception of city images using a combination of “big data” and “small data” methods in the Tri-City Region in Poland. The aims were to 1) test the hypothesis whether social media analytics can elicit Lynchian elements of city image in consistency with conventional methods, and 2) develop and evaluate social media-based indicators of Imageability for planning practice. Geo-tagged images and texts were collected from Instagram and Twitter, two popular social media platforms in Poland. Text-Mining, Image Processing, Clustering Analysis, Kernel Density Estimation, and Sentiment Analysis were used. Results were compared with benchmarks constructed from official GIS database, questionnaire responses and sketch maps. “District”, “landmark”, and “path” identified on social media were in good agreements with benchmarks, less so for “edge” and “node”. Two social media-based indicators have influenced the perception of a place: Instagramability, the frequency of a place captured on Instagram, was linked to its perception as an architectural landmark and tourist attraction, while Twitterability, the frequency of a place mentioned on Twitter by name, was linked to its perceived niceness and relevance to everyday life of communities. Methods developed in this study have theoretical and practical implications for urban planners.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103977
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • City image
  • Kevin Lynch
  • Social media analytics
  • Tri-City Poland


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