Fracking in the UK press: Threat dynamics in an unfolding debate

From Public Understanding of Science

Some  believe that fracking is a sensible “clean” solution to our energy needs. Shale gas is a novel source of fossil fuel which is extracted by induced hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. Fracking activity in the UK is still in the exploration stage. Early attempts have caused controversy and been met with strong resistance from the public who are concerned about the potential dangers and environmental repercussions. Protests have made UK news headlines regularly and have even succeeded in halting the activity in some cases, for the time being.

This article examines the socio-political dimension of fracking as manifested in the UK press. This thematic analysis study identifies emerging social representa­tions of the practice of fracking at three important junctures. The paper shows the important role of the threat representation in polarising the newspaper debate on fracking and describes the dynamics of this and other social representations over time. This analysis of UK press coverage lays out the landscape against which any symbolic coping with fracking will play out once it becomes a reality.

Abstract

Shale gas is a novel source of fossil fuel which is extracted by induced hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. This article examines the socio-political dimension of fracking as manifested in the UK press at three key temporal points in the debate on the practice. Three newspaper corpora were analysed qualitatively using Thematic Analysis and Social Representations Theory. Three overarching themes are discussed: “April–May 2011: From Optimism to Scepticism”; “November 2011: (De-)Constructing and Re-Constructing Risk and Danger”; “April 2012: Consolidating Social Representations of Fracking”. In this article, we examine the emergence of and inter-relations between competing social representations, discuss the dynamics of threat positioning and show how threat can be re-construed in order to serve particular socio-political ends in the debate on fracking.

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Article details
Rusi Jaspal and Brigitte Nerlich
Fracking in the UK press: Threat dynamics in an unfolding debate
Public Understanding of Science 0963662513498835, first published on August 13, 2013 doi:10.1177/0963662513498835

 

 

     
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