I remember a CD-ROM project from the 90s that was unlike almost else appearing at the time. An ambient fluid flow of images and film, mixed with a unusual collection of audio, it created the feeling of moving through an urban environment. You had only the vaguest feeling of control of it all — almost as if you were being pulled through the city. It was a dream-like kind of experience.
The project was “Urban Feedback,” and it was created by Giles Rollestone with Sophie Greenfield in 1995-1996 while at RCA. When I first saw it, on the I.D. Magazine 1997 interactive annual CD-ROM, I was sucked it. Collaged images, vivid colors, radio sounds, video, all moving together in a dark and mysterious space. You could control it — but, in a way like many other random/ambient titles of that period, you were never quite sure what control you actually had.
Giles went on, this time with Julian Baker, to create the even more ambitious “Urban Feedback: London Tokyo, Tokyo Nomad.” The title was commissioned by Digitalogue, the Tokyo based new media publishing label, and was created between 1997 and its release in 2001. The project, as described on the UrbanFeedback website, is made up of two parts:
‘Tokyo Nomad‘ is a reactive environment which, over time, reveals ambient views and impressions of Tokyo; the city you inhabit, or Tokyo the city you dream of visiting.
“London Tokyo” is inspired by the chaotic energy of London and Tokyo. Fragments of media ranging from street sounds to texts and films are fused together forming a dynamic reactive collage.
Sadly the there are fewer and fewer computers that can still run the old CD-ROMs, so the project is close to extinction. But take a look at the videos and images below for a glimpse at what the remarkable titles were like.