Universities are facing a tough time. Are they for extending knowledge? Or for training people up so that they can get jobs in an "advanced" economy? The former harks back to the original definition of "academic", while the latter juggles with the idea of "practicality". But there are compromises to be made, especially when a sense of economic efficiency watches over the two of them. Computer "Science" is no exception, as has been seen/highlighted in recent discussion over the suitability of teaching Java to students.
But I think this tug-of-war goes a lot further than education. The Ideal Government blog has a snippet concerning the IPS's indecision over what the National Identity Register should, in fact, be.
This "split-personality" for such services is interesting. Does it come from an agglomeration of functions? (Evolution = economy of scope in an increasingly genericised world?) How about a re-definition of the role a particular institution now finds itself in? (Research now becomes more practical than academic, as progress becomes more and more important?)
Or are we reaching a "critical mass", a tearing between scales? Is the system more important than the user? Can a user exist without the system? And what, after all this, is the correct course of action?