Skip to Content

Identity Journal


Core Project: Identity Journal

This is the overarching "capstone" project for the course, accounting for 20% of the final grade The broader purpose of this assignment is to illuminate the ways in which digital media have enabled Americans to explore different identities. Although we will examine the construction of identity in several units of the class, the journal provides the opportunity for an in-depth, ongoing, hands on experience with identity formation. A secondary objective is to bring diversity to your discussions in section. From time to time, we will ask you to assume your journal identity while discussing an issue in section or executing a weekly assignment. Many of the assigned identities below are rarely represented in UVa undergraduate class rooms. The rapid change in information technology over the past thirty years has had a disparate impact on Americans. Embracing your assumed identities will underscore the varied ways in which these developments have affected different groups of citizens. A third objective is to learn how to approach those who differ from you with curiosity and empathy. This is an essential skill for the historian, who must often write about, and understand, figures who have radically different world views.

At the beginning of the semester, students will be assigned one of seven profiles that cover some of the basic components of identity such as age, class, gender, politics, and location. You will be asked to embellish these broad strokes with specific details: family members, favorite foods, modes of transport, leisure activities, hopes, worries, guilty pleasures, personal histories. You may also want to provide details about race, religion and belief systems. It's important to construct a believable persona that goes beyond simple caricature. It is also important to respect the persona that you create, even if you may strongly disagree with some of their beliefs or political positions.

The first formal entry in your journal, to be completed by Sunday, January 26, is a one to two page profile of your persona. This means that in the first two weeks of the class, you should take some time to learn about "yourself". You should update your profile from time to time, as you learn more about your assumed identity, so that by the end of the class, this is a fully realized individual.

Below, you will find an initial list of media and websites that will help you get started. These leads should direct you towards many more resources on the web that people like your assumed identity might frequent. You should also create a Twitter account for your persona. You should use the course hashtag #DigAm2014, but you should also tweet and follow the kinds of Twitter accounts your persona would. The Twitter traffic and digital material it leads you to will be crucial to character formation over the course of semester. It is essential that you not provide any real, personal information on your character’s Twitter account. Instruction for setting up a Twitter account for your character is provided below.

By Sunday, February 2 and each following week you should write a 1-2 page journal entry written from the perspective of your assumed identity. Each of your weekly journal entries should start as a reaction to a specific component of that week’s class material. You can react to something said in lecture, section discussions, films, or assigned readings. You can expand upon something you learned from the assignment (although you should not simply replicate the assignment itself.) While starting with a specific item from that week’s unit, you should draw upon any other course material, your own knowledge beyond the course, and your persona’s interaction with social media and other material on the web, to address one of the larger themes explored in class that week. You should submit your full profile and first substantive journal entry to your TA on Tuesday, February 4 so that he can provide commentary and suggestions for future journal entries. This will not be graded, but will provide an important opportunity for mid-course correction in case you did not understand the assignment.

The course covers material that happened either before some of the assigned personas were born or were old enough to be affected by these events: the Cold War, for instance. If you choose to write about such a topic, you have several options when this occurs: you can discuss the reactions of one of the “parents” of your persona, or you can discuss the topic from the perspective of your persona today – what would their historical memory of such an event or issue be? How does it resonate compared to somebody who actually lived through the event?

You will submit your profile and all of your journal entries up through spring break to your TAs on March 23. The TAs will provide feedback and assign a provisional grade. The final profile and all journal entries will be due on April 30. Make sure to keep up so that the materials for each week are still fresh in mind when you write the entries. Your grade for this assignment will be based upon the final profile and all the journal entries.

You will be assigned one of the following identities in the first section of class. Please see “Lauren” (below) for an example of the kind of detail that we hope you will add to your profile by the end of the term.



 67 year old Republican stay-at-home mom from Roanoke.




 35 year old warehouse employee, Independent, from Chester, VA.




 55 year old physician, Republican, from Fairfax Co.




 18 year old, Democrat, student at Virginia Tech.




 45 year old high school principal, Democrat, from Staunton.




 26 year-old unemployed Army vet, from Richmond, Democrat.




 27 year-old Independent, graduate student at UVa. (Here is a sample of what Lauren’s profile might look like by the end of the class)




1/16  Identities assigned in Section

1/26 One-page profile of your assumed identity

2/04  Submit full profile and first substantive journal entry to your TA for comments

3/23  Submit profile and journal entries through spring break to your TA

4/30 Final profile and all journal entries due to TA




1. Twitter is a popular short-format social blogging platform that restricts posts (“tweets”) to 140 characters in length. It is used by hundreds of millions of people across the world from all walks of life.

Since you'll be tweeting as your persona, DO NOT use your personal Twitter account if you have one. Sign up for a new account on Twitter at In order to avoid tying this to your personal email address, we recommended that you use an alternate email adress or temporary email service such as 10 Minute Mail ( to register for and confirm the account. If you use 10 Minute Mail, be sure to keep track of your user ID and password, as you will not be able to retrieve it later. Pick an ID that fits your persona. We'll never ask you for your account information or grade your tweets, so you can feel free to speak your mind.

2. Find some people to follow! Usernames in Twitter are indicated by the “@” symbol. The tweets of people you follow will be shown on your Twitter home page for easy reading. You can choose to reply to any tweet by clicking the “reply” link below it or you can address any person by appending their account name (starting with “@”).

3. You can indicate the category or subject of a tweet using hashtags. These begin with the “#” symbol. We encourage students to use Twitter to discuss the materials and themes of the class; the hashtag we'll use is #DigAm2014. This is where you'll be communicating directly with your peers (and your professor and TAs). You can view all the Tweets with this hashtag by searching for #DigAm2014 or going to this URL:

4. We also strongly encourage students to find and engage people outside of the class. Many prominent world leaders, writers, and celebrities are active Twitter users. When you're browsing the various online communities relevant to your persona, keep an eye out for the blue songbird icon of Twitter to discover new people to follow. This will be an important resource in immersing yourself in your new identity.