New lecture: ‘Becoming Sherlock. Material semiotics for planners and designers’

In this lecture we will learn how to observe plans and designs critically and try to reason backward to reveal why they are what the are. Using concepts and ideas from semiotics and discourse theory, we will start by interpreting a place based on a plan/design, and describe how it looks. Then we ask how it was intended to look and why and then we try to unravel how different related actors thought about it and, how they interacted, which ideas, theories and ideologies were ‘used’ in their plan/design. Try out: 2016-09-12  9:30 – 12:15 for LAR-37306 Reflections on Planning and Design Practices

Key words: observing landscapes | induction | deduction | abduction | material semiotics | Peirce


“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much. In the everyday affairs of life it is more useful to reason forward, and so the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically.”

“I confess,” said I [Watson], “that I do not quite follow you.”

“I hardly expected that you would. Let me see if I can make it clearer. Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events together in their minds, and argue from them that something will come to pass. There are few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backward, or analytically.” [A Study in Scarlet]


Assche, K. Van, M. Duineveld. & Beunen, R. (2016) Power/knowledge and uncertainty in planning and design. Casus: Leidsche Rijn, Utrecht, Holland.

Duineveld, M. (2016) Material semiotics and abduction: copy and paste.

Eco, U. (1994). The limits of interpretation. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press. 

Eco, U., & Sebeok, T. A. (1983). The Sign of three : Dupin, Holmes, Peirce. Bloomington: Indiana University Press: chapter 3 and 4.