Interpreting Images of Fracking: How Visual Frames and Standing Attitudes Shape Perceptions of Environmental Risk and Economic Benefit

Amber Krause, Erik P. Bucy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The news media’s increased reliance on visual communication to illustrate complex processes and promote learning stresses the importance of investigating how visual content impacts the understanding of scientific issues. In this paper, we investigate how members of the public interpret and make sense of differentially framed images of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) depicting environmental risk, economic benefit, or issue protest. For the analysis, a repeated measures online experiment was conducted with 250 participants to evaluate 40 photographs of fracking operations and consequences. Quantitative coding and thematic analysis of open-ended responses to the images reveal that standing attitudes, operationalized as support, opposition, or indecision about fracking, segments viewers into distinct groups and shapes interpretations of environmental risk and economic benefit. Issue opponents are more likely to indicate concern for the environment regardless of frame shown, whereas undecideds and supporters cite the impact on human health more frequently, largely in relation to job site safety. Supporters also see the least ambiguity, and most economic gains, in images about the controversial production practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-343
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Communication
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

Keywords

  • Visual framing
  • environmental risk
  • hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
  • message interpretation
  • polysemy
  • standing attitudes
  • theme analysis

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Interpreting Images of Fracking: How Visual Frames and Standing Attitudes Shape Perceptions of Environmental Risk and Economic Benefit'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this