Hopke Publishes Research on Fracking Discourse

Journalism Assistant Professor Jill Hopke recently published the paper “Discourse over a contested technology on Twitter: A case study of hydraulic fracturing” with the journal Public Understanding of Science (PUS). Hopke’s research is on the topic of fracking, and how the controversial subject is discussed on the social media platform Twitter.

The full article, co-authored with Molly Simis (University of Wisconsin-Madison) is currently available here on the College of Communication’s website, with thanks to PUS and Prof. Hopke.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing, a drilling simulation technique commonly referred to as “fracking,” is a contested technology. In this article, we explore discourse over hydraulic fracturing and the shale industry on the social media platform Twitter during a period of heightened public contention regarding the application of the technology. We study the relative prominence of negative messaging about shale development in relation to pro-shale messaging on Twitter across five hashtags (#fracking, #globalfrackdown, #natgas, #shale, and #shalegas). We analyze the top actors tweeting using the #fracking hashtag and receiving @mentions with the hashtag. Results show statistically significant differences in the sentiment about hydraulic fracturing and shale development across the five hashtags. In addition, results show that the discourse on the main contested hashtag #fracking is dominated by activists, both individual activists and organizations. The highest proportion of tweeters, those posting messages using the hashtag #fracking, were individual activists, while the highest proportion of @mention references went to activist organizations.