The Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota is an archive and research center dedicated to preserving the history of information technology. Instead of physical hardware and software, the CBI preserves the culture and stories of the IT industry, as told by both those who created it and those whom it impacted. Its extensive collection on Social Issues in Computing exemplifies the many challenges that have arisen as the result of the evolution and proliferation of technology, including gaming.
In this episode, I chat with CBI’s current and former archivists, Amanda Wick and Arvid Nelsen. The archive has a growing collection of video game materials, leading me to ask: does the larger technology industry have the same issues of diversity and representation as gaming? Is gaming uniquely a bellwether, or an exemplar, for social issues? Is technology inherently neutral or even positive, as the industry often purports? In what ways are marginalized voices excluded from the authorship of IT’s history? And what does the archive have to say about the classic survival game Oregon Trail, created right in CBI’s home state of Minnesota?