BiographyLaura C. Johnson is a social planner. She earned her doctorate and masters in Sociology at Cornell University, and her undergraduate degree from Antioch College. She is a Professor in the School of Planning, University of Waterloo, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on housing issues, neighbourhood and community planning, social concepts in planning, and social research methods. She has written books on home-based work, telework, and child care: The Co-Workplace: Teleworking in the Neighborhood, 2003, Vancouver: UBC Press; The Seam Allowance: Industrial Home Sewing in Canada (with Robert E. Johnson), Toronto: Women’s Press, 1982; and The Kin Trade: The Day Care Crisis in Canada (with Janice Dineen) Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1981. In 2004 Laura Johnson was awarded the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Women in Planning Award (in honor of Diana Donald). The APA award highlighted her wide-ranging career of research and writing on community planning and neighbourhood supports for working families. The award committee drew particular attention to her 2003 book, The Co-Workplace, observing its “fascinating historical perspective on home-based work [which is] beginning to change policies … on the parental leave and the availability of alternative work environments in Canada and beyond.”
One unifying theme in Prof. Johnson’s research is the examination of contemporary social issues within their historical context. In the Introduction to The Seam Allowance, on industrial homework by immigrant workers in Canada’s garment industry, Johnson tells the reader to stay tuned to the issue of home-based work, because technological changes in office work is going to create homeworking opportunities for many other jobs. This prediction was borne out over the following three decades. In both Canada and the US, the inadequate supply of quality child care—another of Johnson’s research themes—continues to exert pressure for parents to work from home.
Much of Laura Johnson’s work is based on qualitative case study analysis. In 2016 she contributed a chapter on public housing redevelopment in Canada to Ren Thomas’s edited book Planning Canada: A Case Study Approach, Oxford University Press Canada.
The case study approach also formed the context for an earlier investigation of social implications of home-based teleworking conducted by Johnson and a multi-disciplinary academic team in a large, private sector workplace that was expanding its use of this form of labour. In her various studies Johnson, together with her urban planning students, uses in-depth personal interviews to understand the experiences of her research respondents. With participants’ permission, some of her research projects use digital multimedia to document and communicate research results—both to academic audiences and to the communities that she is studying.
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