The 2010 documentary Gasland appeared to have a significant effect on US mobilization against hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Our challenge was to test this notion. Together with University of Iowa sociologist Bogdan Vasi, we collected data from online searches, social media, mainstream media, and local screening and mobilization events, developing a method that examined both conversation volume and content, using computational text analysis techniques, such as topic modeling. We were able to detect a series of shifts in the national conversation around fracking, from communication frames of “industrial process” to “public health” to “legislative action.” In addition, there was a significant correlation between localities that received film screenings and the passage of local anti-fracking legislation.

“NO FRACKING WAY!" DOCUMENTARY FILM, DISCURSIVE OPPORTUNITY, AND LOCAL OPPOSITION AGAINST HYDRAULIC FRACTURING