Cultural Awareness

A little while ago we had a workshop discussing the use of Croquet by a group here at the University of Wisconsin. One participant raised the issue of cultural awareness. For example, the icons, avatars, metaphors and symbols used in Croquet might have different meanings for different people. After all, this is a world-wide communications tool.

I gave two answers. On a technical level, Brie would allow the users themselves to define different views of objects for different users, as suited to their needs and desires. But on a social level, I had no idea how such different views would be developed.

My four-year-old son just emphasized the importance of this. He was riding in the back seat as I took him home from pre-school. “Can I open this envelope we got in class?” he said. “It’s about poison stuff. Is that OK?”

“Yes,” I said, knowing that it was about poison, not that it was poison.

He opened it and I couldn’t see what he was doing in the back seat.

“Stickers!” he exclaimed. “Oh, and these are for putting on pirate medicine!”

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. Pirate medicine – that made me laugh a lot.

  2. Ref Raskin once pointed out in a blog how many application tool bars still have a floppy disk icon for “save” and children currently have no clue what a floppy disk is and why one would “save” to it.

  3. Howard,

    Currently on a 90-day detail to the North Texas Poison Control Center. The poison place with the stickers per your son’s reference. I am looking at one of those stickers on my mouse now. Working to enhande Poison Centers role in disaster preparedness and response. Looking at using Croquet in the near future in order to educate our children and enhance response and of course Poison exposures. Can send you a link to the presentation through

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