We hypothesize that recent uses of the Internet as a public-participation mechanism in the United States fail to overcome the adversarial culture that characterizes the American regulatory process. Although the Internet has the potential to facilitate deliberative processes that could result in more widespread public involvement, greater transparency in government processes, and a more satisfied citizenry, we argue that efforts to implement Internet-based public participation have overlaid existing problematic government processes without fully harnessing the transformative power of information technologies. Public comments submitted in two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule-making processes—the National Organic Program’s organic standard and the Forest Service’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule—compose our data. We conclude that the Internet provides an arena for playing out three types of conflicts that have long plagued environmental decision-making processes: conflicts over trust of federal agencies, the use of science, and the role of public values.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/stuart_shulman/5/