The discursive construction of hydraulic fracturing in South Africa : a critical analysis of media texts from 2011 to 2012

Smit, Simone Nicole (2014-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Hydraulic fracturing is a geo-engineering procedure designed to extract shale gas from below the earth’s surface. Shale gas is often considered a natural, alternative source of energy that has the potential to increase global energy supplies but the scientific literature is not unanimous regarding the implications that hydraulic fracturing may have, and whether it should continue (Vermeulen 2012). Given the contentious nature of hydraulic fracturing, this study investigates the ways in which hydraulic fracturing is represented in South African media texts. The study draws on Gee’s (1996) model of critical discourse analysis (CDA), which views discourse as a means to represent and reproduce social practices. Thus, the study conceptualises hydraulic fracturing as a social practice with an affiliated discourse or discourses, which represent or construct the process of hydraulic fracturing, as well as the participants involved and context in which it takes place. Furthermore, these discourses are also presumed to have the power to legitimise, and thus perpetuate hydraulic fracturing, or to critique it. Subsequent to an examination of 32 South African news articles, and a close and critical analysis of four of them, this study reveals that hydraulic fracturing is presented in both positive and negative ways. Where positive constructions prevail, writers draw on the perspectives of those working in multinational corporations (MNCs) to construct shale gas as a way to increase energy supplies and achieve economic prosperity. Where negative constructions prevail, writers draw on the perspectives of environmentalists to construct hydraulic fracturing as an environmentally-harmful activity that depletes natural resources. In doing so, the study not only highlights the media’s role in perpetuating confusion about hydraulic fracturing, but highlights dominant ideologies that give rise to common representations of hydraulic fracturing in media texts.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hidrobreking is ’n geo-ingenieursprosedure waardeur ondergrondse skaliegas ontgin word. Skaliegas word dikwels beskou as ’n natuurlike, alternatiewe energiebron met die potensiaal om die wêreld-energievoorraad te verhoog, maar die wetenskaplike literatuur is verdeeld oor die effek van hidrobreking en die voortsetting van hierdie praktyk (Vermeulen 2012). Gegee die netelige aard van die onderwerp, word daar in hierdie studie ondersoek gedoen na die wyses waarop hidrobreking voorgestel word in Suid-Afrikaanse mediatekste. Die analise word gerig deur Gee (1996) se model van kritiese diskoersanalise waarvolgens diskoers dien as instrument in die voorstelling en voortsetting van sosiale praktyke. As sodanig word hidrobreking in hierdie studie gekonsepsualiseer as ’n sosiale praktyk met een of meer gepaardgaande diskoerse wat die proses van hidrobreking, die deelnmers in hierdie proses asook die konteks waarin hierdie proses plaasvind, voorstel of konstrueer. Verder word daar veronderstel dat hierdie diskoerse die krag het om hidrobreking te regverdig en sodoende voor te sit, of om dit te kritiseer. Op grond van die bestudering van 34 Suid-Afrikaanse nuusberigte en ’n kritiese ontleding van vier daarvan, word daar bevind dat hidrobreking op beide positiewe en negatiewe wyses voorgestel word. In die geval van positiewe konstruksies steun skrywers op die uitgangspunte van persone in multinasionale korporasies om skaliegas te konstrueer as ’n manier om energievoorrade te verhoog en ekonomiese vooruitgang te bevorder. In die geval van negatiewe konstruksies steun skrywers op die uitgangspunte van omgewingsdeskundiges om hidrobreking te konstrueer as ’n omgewingskadelike aktiwiteit wat natuurlike hulpbronne uitput. Hierdie bevindinge beklemtoon die rol van die media in die voortgesette verwarring aangaande hidrobreking, asook die dominante ideologieë wat aanleiding gee tot algemene voorstellings van hidrobreking in mediatekste.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86293
This item appears in the following collections: