Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 521–537 | Cite as

Seeing, not Participating: Viewscape Fetishism in American and Norwegian Rural Amenity Areas



Based on participant-driven photo elicitation and in-depth key informant interviews conducted in an American and Norwegian rural amenity area, this article argues that newcomers, seasonal home owners and other stakeholders in rural amenity areas may fail to appreciate, or choose to ignore, the social relations tied to their property or the consequences that their seemingly innocuous decisions can have for local communities. Viewscape fetishism can cause the “magic” of commodified natural amenities to obscure more complex, holistic understandings of the land in favor of a simplified view based on individualized use or exchange value, both of which are highly influence by the sign value inherent in property situated with access to scenic viewscapes. This phenomenon can create barriers to social interaction and community building, and lead to environmental degradation in places that are rich in natural amenities and vulnerable to change.


Viewscape fetishism Community Amenity migration Rural development Sign value 



This research was made possible through funding and support from the following organizations and people: the author’s major professor Dr. Roger Hammer, Norwegian project collaborators Dr. Johan Fredrik Rye and Svein Frisvoll (with whom a portion of the interviews and initial analysis was conducted), the Northern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, the Rural Sociological Society, and the Centre for Rural Research (Norway). The author wishes to thank the wonderful people of Bayfield County and Hitra-Frøya for their photographs and insights, without which the project would not have been possible. Thanks to Shaun Golding for creating the maps used herein, to the author’s colleague Dr. Jerry Stark for his thoughtful comments on the manuscript, and to the anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback as well.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin OshkoshOshkoshUSA

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