The Identity Cloud Method: a Technique for Visualising and Stimulating Discussion about Identity

Sarah Foxen


Identity is a concept which is central in many academic disciplines and ancillary in many more. The concept is approached in various ways; both theoretically and in praxis. In the social sciences, one of the ways that scholars have construed and measured identity is with rating scales. Rating scales, however, do not acknowledge the fluid, interactional and contextually contingent nature of identity. In this article I present an innovative visual method, the Identity Cloud Method, which overcomes the shortcomings of the traditional rating scale. Coloured paper discs are arranged on paper to represent an individual’s identity in the form of a cloud. The method has been piloted in several settings and feedback suggests it has applications both as a research tool and beyond the academy in educational, professional, and health and well-being contexts. 


visual research methods, creative methods, rating scale, identity, liminality

Full Text:



Berger, P. & Luckman, T., 1991. The social construction of reality: A treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, 6th edition. London: Penguin.

Bucholtz, M. & Hall, K., 2013. Locating identity in language. In: C. Llamas & D. Watt, eds. Language and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University

Press, pp. 18–28.

Chimi, C.J. & Russell, D.L., 2009. The Likert scale: A proposal for improvement using quasi-continuous variables. Proceedings of the Information Systems Education Conference 26, pp. 1–10.

Gelman, S., 2005. Essentialism in everyday thought. [Online]. American Psychological Association. Available at: [Accessed 27 January 2016].

Likert, R., 1932. A technique for the measurement of attitudes. Archives of Psychology 140, pp. 1–55.

Llamas, C., 2007. A place between places: Language and identities in a border town. Language in Society 36(4), pp. 579–604.

Llamas, C., 2010. Convergence and divergence across a national border. In: C. Llamas & D. Watt, eds. Language and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 227–238.

Llamas, C. & Watt, D., eds. 2010. Language and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Llamas, C & Watt, D., 2014. Scottish, English, British?: Innovations in attitude measurement. Language and Linguistics Compass 8/11, pp. 610–617.

Ogden, J & Lo, J. 2011. How meaningful are data from Likert scales? An evaluation of how ratings are made and the role of the response shift in the socially disadvantaged. Journal of Health Psychology, pp. 1–12.

Pooley, T., 2004. Language, dialect and identity in Lille, vol. I. New York: Edwin Mellen Press Ltd.

Sayer, A., 2003. Long Live Postdisciplinary Studies! Sociology and the curse of disciplinaryparochialism/imperialism. Department of Sociology, Lancaster University. Available at: [Accessed 14 March 2016].


  • There are currently no refbacks.