Not unexpectedly, there are little discussed consequences to the valuing, expansion, and elevation of “agency” in architectural education in the last three decades. One problem, Steven Connor notes, is that “the wide acceptance of the value of what is called ‘agency’, […] makes everything that does not allow for or might require the restraining of agency, along with everything that might suggest the moderation of power rather than empowerment, puzzling or provoking.” To temper agency is to risk bewilderment and reproof. In the face of these, this paper examines what Connor calls “giving way” or comportments of forbearance like abstaining, refraining, refusing, and saying “no.” These “unactions” (not inactions) are studied in architectural education because I want to understand the “performance of nonperformance” as positive acts. To study concessive bearings, this paper focuses on three interrelated issues. These include the digital framing, shared language, and hand gestures used within the video teleconferencing platform Zoom in a graduate and undergraduate design studio. By drawing on contemporary phenomenology, sociology, and literary theory, I argue, that concessive bearings are required, produced, and activated by Zoom’s mediation. These bearings disclose the social and affiliative background dimensions on which education depends. They also reveal faculty and students as adept practitioners who exercise power over power in ways that suggest clues to what a post-growth educational transformation might look like if it emerged from cascading abstentions.
Peter Olshavsky, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Besides UNL, he has taught at McGill, Temple and Philadelphia University and has practiced professionally in Philadelphia, PA. He holds a Ph.D. and M.Arch. II in history and theory from McGill University and B.Arch. from The Pennsylvania State University. Peter is a Canada-US Fulbright Fellow with a focus in architectural history, theory and design.