The last few years have seen a rapid growth in the development of computer systems that use shared spaces to support interaction. This has been fuelled by the increasingly ubiquitous techniques that allow new presentations of digital information. This initial shift to shared networked environments has been recognised in the Inhabited Information Spaces schema of the i3 initiative. Funded by the European Commission's i3 programme, the research project eSCAPE developed during the last three years electronic landscapes that provide interconnections between virtual environments. Two main forms of electronic landscapes have emerged within eSCAPE and have been used by different communities of users.

An abstract electronic landscape is one where the structure of the space and the layout of bodies in the space are dependent on the content of the data. Abstract electronic landscapes help users make sense of on-line information by providing a landscape that reflects the structure of information. Physical electronic landscapes capitalise on the familiarities of our everyday physical environment such as roads and buildings. They exploit the everyday nature of our real world to build environments that can be explored and used by citizens for 'real world' purposes.

These electronic landscapes represent the convergence of artistic, social and technical work and allow users to explore on-line information and virtual worlds in a new way. The landscapes are dynamically constructed and are based on both the content and structure of the information and the effects of user activities. Designed by artists and built using the Deva virtual reality system, Placeworld represents our first large scale physical electronic landscape. It is a place where places meet, and is a technological, aesthetic and conceptual framework for supporting creativity and social interaction via the Internet.