Boellstorff and Soderman are writing a book on Intellivision, provisionally entitled Intelligent Visions: The Intellivision System, Video Games, and Society. Intellivision, developed by Mattel Electronics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is one of the most important but understudied home video game systems. Among other milestones, it was the first consumer device to have an operating system (the “EXEC”), an ancestor of everything from Windows to Apple iOS to Google Android. It was the first device to have downloadable games (PlayCable). Its games included one of the first world simulation games (Utopia) and first medical simulations (Microsurgeon). Its rivalry with Atari reshaped forms of competition and collaboration in technology. In this informal talk, Boellstorff and Soderman will present this project, very much in progress, and talk about its relationship to anthropological theory and practice, as well as to interdisciplinary collaboration. Methodologically this will include discussing nonethnographic anthropology, the use of oral histories, “playing the archive,” and other forms of historical analysis (from computer code to television advertisements). They will discuss how the project builds on but also departs from typical “platform studies” approaches, and introduce some key working concepts under development, including productive constraint, systems theory, and transplatform. They will explore our multidimensional approach to Intellivision as social history, computational infrastructure, design platform, and gaming space. Finally, Boellstorff and Soderman will discuss how Intellivision provides a crucial alterative history to Artificial Intelligence (AI), with consequences for anthropology and STS.

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