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Current Research Areas

We are exploring a number of areas of applied and misapplied technology, including the following:

Animation as a tool for Obfuscation
We are studying the techniques of Flash-based advertisements, banners and other gratuitous animations to confuse and irritate users. We see promising results in the following areas:
  • significantly reduced comprehension as compared to the same content without the obfuscatory distractions.
  • high degree of frustration, sometimes even leading to abandonment of the site.

Based upon this, we see that excessive animation, and entirely Flash-based websites in particular, can be very useful as a means of deterring users from reading or understanding content that must nominally be "available to the public".

We expect to see widespread adoption in legal statements and certain areas of sales. Many areas of government currently employing more primitive obfuscation will begin to use Flash more widely.

Future trends:
Currently SMIL, SVG and other standards-based approaches are not nearly as prevalent as Flash for this application. Some argue that Flash is simply better oriented to confusion and irritation, but we see this as an issue of authoring expertise. We expect to see the Flash authors who excel at design-for-obfuscation to adopt the new technologies, and when combined with the better tools for deployment (XSLT et al.), to establish a new frontier of standardized obfuscation.

Humor Checker and Humor Generation tools
We see some application of I/S (Irony and Sarcasm) on the web, most seem to be hand authored:
  • Lion hunting (demonstrating that mathematical humor may or may not be an oxymoron).
  • Circlemakers (dubbed unfair by some as it is based upon real-word I/S).

We see a clear need for humor generation tools to aid authors with no sense of humor, or training in the use of I/S. These tools would be used in much the same way as spelling and grammar checkers in common use today. We are trying to determine the potential user-base for this, although it appears to be very large. We are also considering the negative effects of such a tool on the unwittingly talented (e.g. government agents who declare: "We at the FBI have no sense of humor that we are aware of").

Related research:
Surprising to us, a number of other researchers actually get funding to pursue this, e.g., Graeme Ritchie, and Kim Binsted.

Future trends:
Difficult to project, now that irony is dead.

Cognitive Constraints on Acronym Length
This project builds upon established principles of psychology and learning theory to establish optimal acronym lengths. While there is an established preference for the TLA, we intend to demonstrate the effectiveness of alternatives:
  • We see precedents in acronym-based neologism (ABN) in common usage, e.g., scuba, sonar, radar. Based upon this, we are exploring FLA's, FLA's, SLA's, and  SLA's.
  • We are interested in the viability of VLA (variable length acronyms), but to date find that only Dutch speakers have a taste for this. [If this makes no sense to you, ask Lynda.]
Humor Utilities for Broadband Redistribution of Irony and Sarcasm
HUBRIS is widely used in the 3G and telecom industries to describe the market for their services. Novel applications of HUBRIS include Enron's company internal website providing pension and investment advice to employees.