Background: Online communities of practice (oCoPs) may emerge from interactions on social media. These communities offer an open digital space and flat role hierarchy for information sharing and provide a strong group identity, rapid flow of information, content curation, and knowledge translation. To date, there is only a small body of evidence in medicine or health care to verify the existence of an oCoP. Objective: We aimed to examine the emergence of an oCoP through the study of social media interactions of the free open access medical education (FOAM) movement. Methods: We examined social media activity in Twitter by analyzing the network centrality metrics of tweets with the #FOAMed hashtag and compared them with previously validated criteria of a community of practice (CoP). Results: The centrality analytics of the FOAM community showed concordance with aspects of a general CoP (in terms of community, domain, and practice), as well as some specific traits of a health care community, including social control, common purpose, flat hierarchy, and network-based and concrete achievement. Conclusions: This study demonstrated preliminary evidence of an oCoP focused on education and based on social media interactions. Further examination of the topology of the network is needed to definitely prove the existence of an oCoP. Given that these communities result in significant knowledge translation and practice change, further research in this area appears warranted.
Roland, D., Spurr, J., & Cabrera, D. (2017). Preliminary evidence for the emergence of a health care online community of practice: Using a netnographic framework for twitter hashtag analytics. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(7). https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.7072