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potentially connected terms in the conversation.

• Finally, highlighting any of the nodes or themes highlights related information, including the conversation thread that generated the mapping, so that the user can review the original, if she desires. One of the most interesting aspects of «Conversation Map» is how its thesaurus function will connect terms that are being used in very different contexts by different ‹sides› of the debate. For instance, in an analysis of several hundred messages to the Usenet group soc.culture.Palestine during August 2001, «Conversation Map’s» thesaurus computed «Jews» and «Arabs» and «lands» and «peoples» as possibly similar terms. [10]

In «Agonistics: A Language Game» (2004) the «software play» of «Conversation Map» becomes a defining aspect of the project. Sack writes: «Political philosophers have been arguing about arguing for a long time. . . . a third camp tries to break up the fight between the moral conversationalists and the political rhetoricians by attempting to get everyone off the battlefield and to reconsider the shape and forms of the field of engagement. . . . Political theorists like


Chantal Mouffe provide us with alternatives by pointing out that—even if argument is war—war is just one form (although a deadly form) of contest between adversaries. Mouffe’s alternative to a utopic, moral, deliberative democracy is—what she calls—an agonistic pluralism where agon is understood as the ancient Greek term denoting ‹A public celebration of games; a contest for the prize at those games; or, a verbal contest or dispute between two characters in a Greek play› (OED).» [11]

The rules of «Agonistics» are such that conversants in a very large-scale conversation are ‹players.› A player ‹wins› the conversation (at least temporarily) by articulating the issues in such a way that not only does a broad swathe of players respond to her posts—they are in dialog—but her ideas are influential and propagate throughout the conversational network. Visually, this is represented by placing automatically assigned faces of the most influential players closer to the middle of the screen. By awarding points for agonistic behavior and building a game-like interface to a very large-scale conversation, Sack intends to both map the dynamics of the conversation and influence

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