I find myself playing a lot of riffs like this in my function band, which mainly plays disco/pop/party music. We have a keys player who tends to cover the chords so I play this style a lot so as not to make the chords too crowded and muddy.
You can hear the style in the verse of Never Too Much and Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough. Single note rhythmic patterns which complement the groove without being too intrusive.
Anyway, i've always wondered if this technique had a name, as I don't really know how to describe or explain it to people!
Playing like this has started hurting my hand because I get a much better tone when I hit the strings hard, so my hand is kind of bashing against the body a lot for 2 - 3 hours per gig. Sometimes during a gig I get a really sharp pain in the centre of my knuckles as if i've broken something. Has anyone else had this problem? How do I still get the awesome tone without destroying my hand? Maybe go up another string gauge? (i currently use 11s in standard tuning)