isa2010 professional communities online: the case of legalit

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XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology Professional communities online: the case of Legalit


  • 1. XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology Professional communities online: thecase of Legalit preliminary results Ivana Pais University of Brescia ( Angela Palmieri University of Calabria (

2. Agenda Theoretical background Research questions Empirical setting Methodology (Preliminary) results Discussion Next steps 3. Theoretical background Online Sociologyprofessional Sociology of professions communitiesof new media 4. Theoretical background Sociology of professions: profession as communities? A profession, as a whole, cannot be defined as 'community', unless you consider only the superior layer, for social origin and for position in the stratification. Reasons: processes of inside stratification tied to different opportunities of career, forms of exercise of the profession, specializations, professionals associations, colleagues and - particularly for the lawyers - clienteles. (Hughes 1958; Freidson 1983, 1984, 1986; Abbott 1986, 1988; Tousijn 1987; Speranza 1999) 5. Theoretical background Sociology of new media: online communities They are a way of accessing an open and frequently democratic group of peers dealing with similar knowledge issues, even if geographically distributed (Ahuja et al., 2003) They are communities, even if virtual: sharing of common interests (Lave, Wenger 1991); sharing of a space, even if not physical; pact of trust; sense of belonging; collective identity (Rheingold 1993; Stone, 1991). Imagined communities (Anderson, 1991) Personalized communities embodied in me-centered networks (Wellman, 2000); privatization of sociability (Castells, 2001) 6. Research questions Online communities of practice can be considered as professional communities?RQ1. What are the distinctive characteristics of theprofessionals who participate? RQ2. What is their functioning logic? RQ3. Do the members develop a sense of stronger affiliationwith their profession or with the community online (vanKnippenberg, van Schie 2000; Levin 2005)? 7. Empirical setting The first (and most active) Italian discussion group for jurists, founded in 1993 In the last year, it has differentiated its online presence through various platforms: a Google Group (Legalit), opened in April 2007, 439members; a Facebook Group (Avvocati italiani), opened in February2009, 724 members; a LinkedIn Group (Avvocati italiani), opened in March2009, 128 members. 8. 1200 0 14001600 200 400 600 800 1000 Apr 07May 07 Jun 07Jul 07 Aug 07Sept 07 Oct 07Nov 07 Dec 07Gen 08 Feb 08Mar 08 Apr 08May 08 Jun 08jul 08Aug 08Sept 08 Oct 08Nov 08 dec 08Gen 09 Feb 09Mar 09 Apr 09May 09 Jun 09Jul 09Aug 09Sept 09 Oct 09Nov 09 dec 09 Gen 10 Feb 10 Mar 10 Messages posted on Legalit April 07 to June 2010 Apr 10May 10 Jun 10 9. Methodology Case study Semi-structured interviews to key-informants Online questionnaire (28 May 10 June 2010): 93 respondents out of 427 (22%). The interviewees wrote 9,828 out of 14,955 messages (66%). Social Network Analysis (Ucinet and Netdraw) Content Analysis (Automap and Ora) 10. (Preliminary) results RQ1. What are the distinctive characteristics of theprofessionals who participate? 69% male 49% in their 30s, 39% - 40s, 8% - 50s e 4% - 60s self-employed (89%) and, on average, sharing office spacewith less than 4 colleagues 67% deals with Civil Law; only 3% with all the otheraspects (civil, criminal, business) clients: private (53%) or small businesses (31%); yearlyaverage 28 clients and 1.1 case per client income: 68% less than 60K 11. (Preliminary) results Reason for studying Law: 29% genuine interest in the science of law, 19% to be self-employed and independent, 12% to be of help to others 11% father already lawyer, 5% partner Only 18% socializes with lawyers in their free-time Only 14% is member of professional associations 80% is victim of unethical practice 80% professional referral system (Freidson 1960) 48% registered with other online professional communities, 63% is gamer 12. (Preliminary) results RQ2. What are their functioning logics? E-mail address when registering: 40% private, 40%business, 11% has only one e-mail, 9% dedicated address How they knew about Legalit: 80% via internet , 20%word of mouth, 10% introduced directly by theadministrator 82% knew no other member when registering; 13%contacts members through e-mail; 6% has met othermembers 13. (Preliminary) results Choosing a message To read: 53% because of title, 24% read all, 21% when time permits, 2% rarely To reply to: 63% topic in which they feel skilled, 15% topic of interest, 2% posted by a colleague, 20% never Lurkers: 57% lack of time, 29% does not believe to be competent, 14% fears of making mistakes Prerequisites for building a reputation on Legalit: technical competence (54%), accuracy of posting (39%), attention to editorial aspects (15%), charisma (13%), time on Legalit (11%), group role (6%), external crediting (5%) 14. 10 4025 5 15 35 45 20 0 5030exchange ofinformation exchange of opinionproblem solving(Preliminary) resultslooking for collaboration looking for friendship goal result 15. 20 0 5010 30 40 60 aspects with whichI'm involvedregularly questions which I only occasionally meet questions I don't deal with, but like(Preliminary) resultsto be informed questions regarding professiongoalresult 16. (Preliminary) results RQ3. Do the members develop a sense of stronger affiliationwith their profession or with the community online? Comparing competence: on average 15% feels lessprepared than colleagues, 67% the same, and 18% more Strong point: managing communication Weak point: preparedness with regard to theirspecialization 17. 60%90%20%80% 0%50%70%10%30%40% 100%competition conflict helpfulnessease of reaching an agreementquick at getting informationwide range of views(Preliminary) results control funinformalityfamiliarity less same more 18. (Preliminary) results Sense of belonging100% 80%very much 60%somewhat 40%not much 20%not at all0% legalit italian layerslegallawyers professions 19. DiscussionSameness + sense of belonging In contrast to the profession as a whole, the online discussion group of Italian lawyers can be considered a community of professionals 20. Next steps Social network analysis + content analysis SNA: test March 2009 21. March 2009: network by message content 22. Exchange of advice 23. Requests for collaboration 24. Legalit Group 25. Lawyers 26. Next steps Comparing: Other platforms (Legalit in Facebook ans LinkedIn) Other online communities (lawyers in other countries, other legal professions, other professions) 27. Professional communities online:the case of Legalit preliminary results Ivana Pais University of Brescia ( Angela Palmieri University of Calabria (