Professional Communities Online: Toward A Third Reference System?

By Ivana Pais and Angela Palmieri.

Published by Journal of Technologies in Knowledge Sharing

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: January 6, 2016 $US5.00

The spread of social media has led to the reconfiguration of traditional forms of aggregation, from the workplace community to online professional communities. This raises some questions: What are the distinctive characteristics of the professionals who participate in professional digital communities? Is the traditional definition of professional community still valid? What are the relationships between professional communities online and offline? To help answer these questions we have surveyed Legalit, an Italian discussion group for Lawyers founded in 1993 with an online questionnaire distributed in two administrations. This paper is organized into five sections. The first two sections reconstruct the evolution of the concepts of professional community and digital community, and the issues raised when they converge. The third section discusses the hypotheses and the research design. The fourth presents the main results. In particular, we focus on the concept of a “reference system” (Freidson 1960) and we suggest that, in addition to the profane and expert reference system, there is now an “elective” one. In the final section, possibilities for the development of the research will be proposed.

Keywords: digital communities, lawyers, online professional communities, professional communities, reference systems, social media

Journal of Technologies in Knowledge Sharing, Volume 11, Issue 4, January 2016, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: January 6, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 489.089KB)), ISSN: ISSN 2381-9235.

Ivana Pais

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Università Cattolica del Sacri Cuore, Milan, Italy, Italy

I am assistant professor of Economic sociology at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan (Italy). My research interest focuses on social networks in labour markets, organizations and entrepreneurship. In particular, I investigate new ways of working through social media: crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, coworking, sharing, bartering and making.

Angela Palmieri

Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Università degli Studi di Brescia, brescia, italy, Italy