Professional Communities Online

T14 c

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  • Title: Professional Communities Online: Toward A Third Reference System?
  • Author(s): Angela Palmieri, Ivana Pais
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Technology, Knowledge & Society
  • Journal Title: Journal of Technologies in Knowledge Sharing
  • Keywords: digital communities, lawyers, online professional communities, professional communities, reference systems, social media
  • Volume: 11
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2016
  • ISSN: 2381-9235 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2381-9278 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Palmieri, Angela, and Ivana Pais. 2016. "Professional Communities Online: Toward A Third Reference System?." Journal of Technologies in Knowledge Sharing 11 (4): 1-11. doi:10.18848/2381-9235/CGP/v11i04/1-11.
  • Extent: 11 pages


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.