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Social scientists have long argued documentary films are powerful tools for social change.
But a University of Iowa (UI) sociologist and his co-researchers are the first to use the Internet and social media to systematically show how a documentary film reshaped public perception and ultimately led to municipal bans on hydraulic fracking.
Recent scholarship highlights the importance of public discourse for the mobilization and impact of social movements, but it neglects how cultural products may shift discourse and thereby influence mobilization and political outcomes. This study investigates how activism against hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") utilized cultural artifacts to influence public perceptions and effect change. A systematic analysis of Internet search data, social media postings, and newspaper articles allows us to identify how the documentary Gasland reshaped public discourse.