Like many rural areas of the Western world, Bayfield County, Wisconsin and Hitra and Frøya, Norway have experienced numerous shifts in their local economies, populations, and landscapes over recent decades. While traditional occupations and ways of living persist, the wondrous natural amenities of each area have attracted new residents and new uses for these land- and water-based resources. This book utilizes photos taken by people of these places and their insights to present a portrait of rural communities across the ocean from one another, yet in a very similar boat at the dawn of the 21st century.
Paul Van Auken defended his dissertation in rural sociology entitled Nature, Community, Commodity: Shifting Landscapes and Social Relations in Rural Amenity Areas of Wisconsin and Norway at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in August of 2007. He began teaching at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh a couple weeks later and is thrilled to be a member of the sociology and environmental studies departments. A native Iowan, Van Auken has called Wisconsin home since 1999. He was raised with a very strong connection to Norway; his mother grew up there and he was able to visit his grandparents and other relatives many times over the years, spending most of the time at a rustic but comfortable family cabin in Gudbrandsdalen. He lives with his wife and young daughter in an old house in Oshkosh and can (barely) see the lake from their porch.