Cummings, Robert E.
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This dissertation seeks to identify and explain value of the recently-identified phenomenon known as Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP) for the teaching of writing. The two most common instances of CBPP are the open source software operating system Linux, and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Law professor and economic theorist Yochai Benkler has identified CBPP as a third mode of economic production, supplementing the existing theories of market production and firm production. CBPP is an internet age phenomenon that arises only when traditional costs of production, including costs of fixation and transmission, or writing and publication, are made very low. This allows almost everyone to contribute as much or as little to a project that one self-selects, maximizing individual creativity. This dissertation attempts to apply CBPP theory to the writing classroom. It finds that the composition classroom is currently based on the firm model of production, where the writing instructor plays the role of the firm manager, assessing student writing based on how the instructor imagines a professional audience would respond to that work. The dissertation then suggests that the current composition pedagogy should expand to include CBPP, since a diverse audience can read and assess student writing rather than an instructor acting on behalf of an imagined audience. Further, this dissertation examines the underlying economic and composition theory necessary to construct such a teaching model. To better explain CBPP, this document also traces the history of open source software development, emphasizing aspects which apply to the teaching of writing. This document also contains the results of a semester-long research project in which CBPP principles were applied in a First-Year Composition classroom, soliciting student feedback on the experience of writing in Wikipedia.