Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative Publications

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Conference Presentations

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Rulemaking, the process through which United States (U.S.) federal government agencies develop major health, safety and economic regulations, was an early target of electronic government (e-government) efforts. Because it was an established decision-making process that had substantial formal requirements of transparency, public participation and responsiveness it seemed a perfect target for technology-supported participatory policymaking. It was believed that new technologies could transform rulemaking, increasing its democratic legitimacy and improving its policy outcomes by broadening the range of participating individuals and groups (Brandon and Carlitz, 2003; Coglianese, 2004; Noveck, 2004). Despite the promise of a more deliberative and democratic process, rulemaking efforts have failed to produce broader meaningful public engagement. In this paper we examine if lack of adoption of participatory eRulemaking platforms can be explained by the disruption to agencies’ established rulemaking practices. We will consider how agencies react to technological innovation as a risk due to their deep-rooted organizational cultures and the impact of judicial and political oversight. We will provide examples of agency risk and culture, including from our own experiences with RegulationRoom, a socio-technological participation platform that has facilitated public participation in six federal rulemakings. We will also draw on a comparison of for-profit businesses and rulemaking agencies in thinking about motivation to adopt (or avoid) new technologies.


Paper presented at the 2017 Annual International Communication Association Preconference, San Diego, California.