The Marcellus Shale in Maryland and Twitter: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Tweets from November 2016
Breitenother, Allison Gost
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Recent research shows about 75% of US adults are on social networking sites. Social media platforms like Twitter, provide potential new modes of networked public participation around contested technologies while affording communities a space for identity development and expression. During 2016, Maryland saw increasing interest in and debate around opening the State to hydraulic fracturing. To understand public perception of hydraulic fracturing, researchers collected tweets associated with relevant hashtags. Data collection occurred during the month of November 2016 which included the 2016 General Election and the release of proposed regulations in Maryland. The final sample of tweets for this period was n=638 stratified across thirteen hashtags. The timing, actors involved and central themes of the discussion around hydraulic fracturing in Maryland were analyzed using qualitative methods. The frequency of tweets by date showed three peaks – November 14, November 18 and November 22. November 14, 2016 was when the Maryland Department of the Environment released the proposed regulations, November 18 was a day of action referred to as #frackfreefriday and the content of tweets from November 22 focused on the regulations. Additional analysis showed individual actors and the hashtag #dontfrackmd contributed the most to the final. Additional stratification by hashtag, content and stance towards fracking further described the Twitter discourse around hydraulic fracturing in Maryland during the study period. Additional analysis is recommended to understand the public perception expressed on Twitter for the entire Marcellus Shale region as it pertains to hydraulic fracturing.