Talking to Strangers: The Use of a Cameraman in The Office and What It Reveals about Communication

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Stockslager, Sarah C
Speech Communication; Communication; Interpersonal and Small Group Communication
article description
In the television mock-documentary The Office, co-workers Jim and Pam tell the cameraman they are dating before they tell their fellow co-workers in the office. The cameraman sees them getting engaged before anyone in the office has a clue. Even the news of their pregnancy is witnessed first by the camera crew. Jim and Pam’s boss, Michael, and other employees, such as Dwight, Angela and others, also share this trend of self-disclosure to the cameraman. They reveal secrets and embarrassing stories to the cameraman, showing a private side of themselves that most of their co-workers never see. First the term “mock-documentary” is explained before specifically discussing the The Office. Next the terms and theories from scholarly sources that relate the topic of self-disclosure to strangers are reviewed. Consequential strangers, weak ties, the stranger-on-a-train phenomenon, and para-social interaction are studied in relation to the development of a new listening stranger theory. Examples of self-disclosure from episodes of The Office are used by dividing the situations into different categories based on how the person interacted with the cameraman. Conclusions are then drawn from the instances of communication with the cameramen from The Office, after which the listening stranger theory will be defined and explained. Last, the listening stranger theory is related to real-life situations and supported by communication research from books and journal articles.