Coding Ann Landers

The evolution of marriage plays a pivotal role in unraveling the tangled web that is the Adulthood Project. Similarly, I find that marriage is so crucial an institution in American culture.

Last week I mentioned in my post that we would visit the Chicago History Museum to look and primary documents that would aid in our research as we press on with our independent topics. I read many columns during my first stint of research at the Chicago History Museum, but only thirteen applied explicitly to my topic. Creating a code also slowed down the process due to the fact that I was juicing these letters for every bit of information I could. With my sand papery rough draft I will now be able to read the letters faster and refine the code. I plan on re-reading the articles I came away with to make sure that I haven’t missed anything in the initial codes.

Developing a code organically took a great deal of concentration. The obvious demographic categories for each letter took no time at all. Coding either side of the letter and its intention took more effort. One one side you had a fan writing to Ann with their own problems, and each dilemma required its own term. I had to ask myself if the reader was seeking advice on an issue or have they already acted and are looking for Ann to agree with their choice. On the other side you have Ann and her response. If the reader has asked for advice the codes stand, but if the reader has asked for Ann’s approval she may not readily give it. Ann is firm in her responses and often times gives a hybrid answer incorporating some form of approval or disapproval in addition to some form of advice. A key coding term even developed for times when a reader would confront Ann about something she had said in a previous letter and she retracts her statement offering new advice. This indicates Ann’s ability to change her stance in order to please the general public and adhere to the popular opinion.

With this in mind, Professor Holly Swyers and I decided that I would code all applicable letters from April of 1957 then move onto April of 1967 and so on until I cover each decade. This will allow us to see how Ann’s responses have changed over the years, if they’ve even changed at all. I have a strong feeling that they will adapt with the people overtime. Otherwise, how would Ann Landers be relevant into the 90s, right? More to come….