ABSTRACT

The recent growth in the media’s, and particularly television’s, role as a site for selfdisclosure is striking, and has attracted considerable attention.1 It is hardly surprising that some have seen here a throwback to ‘the medieval confessional box’ (Hartley 1992: 3). But, as one of the more subtle commentators on this phenomenon has argued, television’s confessional ‘ritual’ is quite different from earlier forms (White 1992a). The relationship between the meanings of self-disclosure and technological form is a subtle one, and goes on changing with the expanded possibilities for selfdisclosure on the Internet. In this chapter, I want to explore not so much the details of what individuals disclose through the media, but rather what a ritual analysis adds to our understanding of these forms of self-disclosure. A ritual analysis can cut across and help us rethink from a broader sociological perspective, otherwise indecisive debates about the meaning of self-disclosure in our supposedly ‘confessional culture’.