Denying public value: The role of the public sector in accounts of the development of the Internet

Title: Denying public value: The role of the public sector in accounts of the development of the Internet
Format: Journal Article
Publication Date: July 2004
Published In: Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Description: The development of the Internet has required the combined efforts of government agencies, universities, and private corporations. The system as we came to know it in the 1990s is to a great extent the result of the interaction of technical considerations and the peculiar interfaces among the public, private, and hybrid sectors. Yet the stories of the creation of the Internet by participants are largely of a system that sprung wholly from the private sector. In this study we explore the distance between creation stories and creation processes in this large-scale technical system. Our goal is twofold: to understand the attribution of public and private values by participants and to understand how public values influenced the design of the Internet. An embedded case study design is used with which we detect four types of stories that function as myths of contemporary culture, which constitute a denial of public value in the creation of the Internet: (a) appeal to the heroic individual, (b) substitution of professional ethics for a public service ethic, (c) use of private sector myths by the public sector, and (d) appeal to entrepreneurs and the primacy of the private sector and civil society. In private, insiders tell stories about successful public managers in the implementation of the Internet. They have not received much diffusion and interpret the result as a realization of democratic values. The intent of the government to create a new marketplace, that is, "Cyberspace," is suggested as the peculiar form of public value created with the Internet. These stories highlight by contrast the difficulty in portraying the value created by public managers when the role of the government is enabling and indirect.
Ivan Allen College Contributors:
Citation: Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. 14. Issue 3. 371 - 393. ISSN 1053-1858. DOI 10.1093/jopart/muh024.
Related Departments:
  • School of Public Policy