Effects of the city for creative individuals’ identity: Narrative identity constructions of international internet entrepreneurs about being in Berlin

Christian Emigholz

Student thesis: Master thesis


The thesis takes its point of departure in the Creative City of Berlin. The German capital is full of creative workers and its creative industries are flourishing. Indications for an emotional relation with Berlin suggest an effect for creative individuals’ identity. This as well claimed the Creative Class Thesis. To find out how Berlin affects creative individuals’ identity, this thesis employs a perspective of narrative identity construction. The role of the city for identity can be assessed from how a creative individual rationalises being in Berlin. In such reflexive identity project, the city is used as a discursive resource to achieve self-continuity and thus coherence. The fact that there are particular motivations in the construction of identity is inspired by principles of identity formation. These motivations become salient in the emplotment of narratives about being in Berlin. They allow identifying the effect of the city for creative individuals’ identity. This research is case-based. Entrepreneurs from Berlin’s uprising internet-start-up cluster are interviewed. It is particular entrepreneurs with an international background are suitable for researching on how the city affects identity. Through semi-structured interviews a reflexive identity project is triggered. Through a narrative textual analysis it was found that the international start-up entrepreneurs use Berlin to build self-efficacy, indicate self-actualisation, achieve self-definition and selfesteem. The effects of Berlin are therefore to feel efficacious, grow personally, provide selfdefinition and allow for self-esteem. The relevance of these categories to capture the effect of the city for identity depends on whether they are deemed means of ends of identity construction. Moreover these categories provide only exemplary effects the city can have for identity and don’t comprehensively capture the “whole” meaning of the city for the interviewees’ selves. The effects of identity cannot be deemed a factor that enables creative industry development, because they result from retrospective meaning-making. Assessing their relevance for prospective action to move to a place was beyond the scope of this research. However, the traced effects for identity refine Richard Florida’s Creative Class Thesis because they add a constructivist angle to its quality-of-place factors. They can therefore shed light on what these qualities of creative centres ‘mean’ to the creative individual. With this, this research provides a practical example for a discursive approach to current research on the relation of place and identity.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages82