Hi everyone,

A few of you have come to our office hours to ask about the concept of “identity” in your first synthesis assignment. It’s a complicated term, but some of you are probably very familiar with it. For those of you who haven’t dealt with it in other classes, here is a short description that should be sufficient for this assignment.

p30919_d_v8_aa-1Identity can and *does* mean a lot of things, but generally it refers to the ways that you perceive yourself and how others perceive you (and these are often closely related to each other). People don’t have a single identity, but many layers of different identities, some of which can seem contradictory. In the past, students have drawn on their sense of global/national/regional/local identity and allegiance, gender, religion, ethnicity/race, interests, values systems/morals, philosophies, personality traits, political leanings or ideas about the role of government, etc. This list is not exhaustive, though!

The prompt brings up the possibility of identity changing either in concert or in contrast to the new context you’re studying in. Changes that bring your identity more in line with the context would be changing “in concert” (for example, having ideas of the role of “the state” (or all the arms of government & quasi-government bodies) become more like Canadians’ views if you study in Canada).

But thinking about the “in contrast” part is also important: Even if the core parts of yourself don’t change, keep in mind that many aspects of identity are relative. Think about terms like “local,” “foreigner,” “really religious,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “loud,” “quiet,” “independent,” “social,” “confident,” “friendly,” etc. All of these descriptions are based on how someone relates to what is considered “average,” but “average” is not a stable category; it is different in different places. (think of the uncle says “‘Normal’ changes every fifty miles.”) So even if there are aspects of how you act and feel that might not change at all, you still need to think about how the ways that you act and feel will affect how you’ll fit in in a new society with different norms.

IdentityJust as an example, someone may have the identity of “the intellectual liberal” in their small rural town in Iowa, but when they come to Madison, there’s a chance they would feel more conservative, less urbane, and identify more with rural lifestyles (this would be “in contrast”). Or maybe they would totally latch onto the dominant Madison culture, for good and/or bad (obviously there is more than one, but hopefully you get the idea).

If you feel like getting even more complicated(!), you can think about how identities are also relational, meaning a single person “performs” or inhabits different identities in different situations and around different people. For example, depending on the setting, a single person can easily inhabit the conflicting identities of daughter, mother, sister, student, teacher, boss, employee; or she might have non-conflicting identities of Latina, female, heterosexual, upper-middle class, foreign-born, well-educated, American, urban, and Catholic that fluctuate between “important” and “not important” at different points of her week. Each of these is bound up with different ideas of the self, perceptions by others, expectations for behaviors, and emotions.

You don’t have to use any of these special terms (relative, relational) in your assignment (and you may have learned different words for the same things in other classes), but hopefully the concepts can help you brainstorm ways to connect yourself to the material presented in the class about the places you will write about.

We hope the above clarifies more than it confuses!

Best, Kris & Rachel

Hello everyone!

This is the support blog for Geography 340 (World Regions in Global Context), a 100% online course being offered in the Fall 2016 term. We may use this blog to update you off and on, but most of the substantive course content is accessed via Learn@UW.

My name is Cathy Day, and I’ll be your instructor for the course. Your TA is Andy Davey. Once the semester starts and you gain access to the course website, you’ll get to know us a bit better from our video introductions. In the meantime, you can read our short bios in the course syllabus.

Here are several updates to get some things moving before term officially starts on Tuesday, September 6th.

I. Syllabus & Schedule

12510279_10156337907335234_1715299207821468240_nRead the syllabus and schedule carefully!! Because we don’t have a first day of class in person where we can go over the course format and policies, this syllabus is very long. Maybe think of it as a course guidebook.

Please note that the course starts slowly for the first session to help those of you who are taking an online class for the first time to dig around the course site on Learn@UW, sort out the course text issue, read the detailed syllabus, email us with any questions you have, etc., etc.  Geog 340 is newish, but we’ve taught it enough times to know how to reduce stress and anxiety – and starting with clarity regarding rolling deadlines that are coming up is one of the tricks. Your first assignment will be to fill out your course profile and to introduce yourself on the course Discussion board. That assignment will be due on Saturday of the first week at 10pm CDT.

II. Website

The course website (which is hosted on Learn@UW) goes live at 8:00 am on Tuesday, September 6. You will need access to a computer to read, watch, and listen to the course content (apart from the textbook), and to engage in discussion forums, etc. We also make ample use of ‘drop boxes’ on the site so you can upload written exercises on it. Again, download the syllabus pronto and read it start-to-finish.

You may also want to learn more about how to use the new Canvas platform. If so, you can access the training course at https://canvas.wisc.edu/courses/13

III. Textbook

The course text this term will be:
World Regions in Global Context: People, Places, and Environments, 6th Edition by Sally Marston, Paul Knox, Diana Liverman, Vincent Del Casino & Paul Robbins, 2017.
ISBN-13: 978-0134183640     ISBN-10: 0134183649

6th edition text

We are using the 6th edition so please acquire a copy of it and NOT the 5th edition. Textbook options include fully online (the cheapest option, especially if you get the 180 day access version) (NOTE: THIS VERSION IS NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM PEARSON AFTER ALL. THEY ARE WORKING ON IT, BUT TRY ANOTHER VERSION FOR NOW – rental on Amazon is a similar price):


an ‘a la Carte’ edition for a binder (cheaper than the paperback version, but more expensive that the online version)


and the standalone book (without MasteringGeography):


We are NOT using MasteringGeography.

The University Bookstore by Memorial Library has ordered copies of the paperback version and the three-ring-binder (a la Carte) version of the 6th edition. You can buy or rent either of these versions from the bookstore.

And here is the Amazon.com link to search for the 6th edition of the course text – Amazon offers various versions (including rental).

Multiple reserve copies of the 6th edition are available in the College Library and the Geography Library on two-hour loan. This is the cheapest option (free!).

Please note that the assigned textbook is required reading and you will be spending a lot of time with it so please ensure that you are satisfied with the format you are considering.

Welcome to the class!

Cathy Day & Andy Davey