Counterpoint Pattern

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One of the major patterns discussed in the original paper on PatternsOfHypertext, counterpoint sets up dialogue among two or more distinct voices.

In Counterpoint, two voices alternate, interleaving themes or welding together theme and response. Counterpoint often gives a clear sense of structure, a resonance of call and response reminiscent at once of liturgy and of casual dialogue. Counterpoint frequently arises naturally from character-centric narratives; for example, Forward Anywhere [1] uses a series of e-mail letters between its two central characters to explore their differences and establish their connections.

Counterpoint naturally occurs when two or more weblogs between a conversation that unfolds over time. A writer may also contrive to create controlled counterpoint by BlogStreaming -- writing in a different voice in two or more weblogs.

Why take the trouble to create counterpoint? Many reasons come to mind. Some include:

  • Clarifying disagreement. By stating distinct views in distinct places, the differences among the views may be accentuated and the character of the disagreement may be made clear.

  • Engaging emotion. Counterpoint ties together a position, and venue, and a character -- the voice of the weblog writer. If the writer's persona excites our sympathy or are anger, this too may change our perception of the subject being discussed.

  • Creating dramatic conflict. By situating ideas and giving them voice, the counterpoint adds urgency to the conflict of ideas. Abstractions can wait, but our friends cannot; the conflict is exciting but the drama requires the benediction of resolution. Managing conflict may be the reason weblogs resist the flame wars that destroyed usenet; because weblogs are more clearly controllable, it is easier to find a resolution to weblog arguments than to settle a large-scale community dogfight.

--MarkBernstein, 07Jul02

Comment systems may create counterpoint (if used to debate an issue) or a MirrorWorld (if used to create an informal discussion community centered on the weblog).

-- Last edited October 27, 2002

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