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Thesis Defense - Scharff

Open Source: A Conceptual Framework for Collaborative Artifact and Knowledge Construction
Eric Scharff
Computer Science PhD Candidate

More than the development of high-quality low-cost software or the support of intellectual property agreements, open source pursuits are dynamic processes with social and technical components. Open source software communities provide examples of ongoing activities where people understand and solve problems of mutual interest. Participants work together to design, reflect upon, and extend software systems, a process that grounds complex problems in the design and continuous evolution of tools, collaborative processes, and even the participants themselves. Open source processes rely on the tight interrelationship between a group of participants, the system they produce, the collaborative process involved, and the collaborative technology used for communication and coordination. Understanding the features of open source collaborative processes can help understand existing projects and to design new collaborative activity.

This dissertation explores open source communities from a collaborative knowledge construction perspective. It presents a conceptual framework for understanding open source collaborative construction activities. It applies this framework to existing open source projects through several case studies of open source projects. These principles are then used in the design of a university course to enhance collaborative knowledge construction within that course. The principles are also applied to the creation of a computer system that supports collaborative problem solving in open-ended domains. Together, these activities explore the description of existing open source projects and the application of open principles to design new collaborative construction practice.

Committee: Gerhard Fischer, Professor (Chair)
Kenneth Anderson, Assistant Professor
Michael Eisenberg, Associate Professor
Tamara Sumner, Assistant Professor
Ernesto Arias, College of Architecture and Planning
Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
May 5, 2012 (14:20)