Christian A. Estay-Niculcar's research blog

Espacio de reflexión personal dedicado a la investigación e innovación aplicada cuando se vincula la ciencia proyectual, y se aplican al desarrollo de las personas, la gestión empresarial y la sociedad.


During first half of 20th century it was possible to believe that the projects were work of a person with a group of devotees participating in their area, but submitted to the rules of whom provide the knowledge. This approach now is not suitable for the project operation; there is not human person today that may supply all the aspects of the project and to master all the knowledge that are necessary to address the problem and to get a creative solution and to execute it . Nowadays, it is recognised that a good project is a teleological creation of a team providing all the specific knowledge and, simultaneously, creating new knowledge required. To assume this vision, an explanatory model of general validity for projects is presented, which permits understand: the role of the virtual collaborative work, the knowledge creation process, the management of people, and the repercussions on the learning and the projects.
Durante la primera mitad del siglo XX fue posible creer que los proyectos eran obra de una persona con un séquito de subordinados que participaban en su pequeña parcela, pero sometidos a la férula de quien aportaba los conocimientos. Este planteamiento ya no es apto para los proyectos de ingeniería actuales en los que, a todas luces, es evidente que no hay persona humana que pueda abarcar todos los aspectos del proyecto y dominar todos los conocimientos que son menester en el planteamiento, y la resolución mental y la ejecución física. Ha tomado forma y nuevo vigor el reconocimiento de que el buen proyecto es creación teleológica conjunta de un grupo de personas que hace uso de sus conocimientos particulares y que, a la par, va generando los nuevos conocimientos que requiere la consecución. Para asumir esta visión, se presenta un modelo explicativo de proyectos de validez general, que permite comprender: el rol de los entornos de trabajo colaborativo virtual, el proceso de creación de conocimiento, la gestión de personal, y las repercusiones sobre la enseñanza y los proyectos.

The Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are referred to exogenous knowledge, outside to the body, accumulated by the humanity in different ways through complex social processes (writing, numbering, the press, ICT, and so one). Meanwhile, the individual has not increased significantly both its information process capacity and its knowledge ontological (to give sense).

We need to modify the working methods required for an efficient use of the new tools (by example, the ones requires by the ICT), and to aim to research the evolution of the project idea as well as of its crafts (‘métiers’) inasmuch affects directly the to the company, to the project as business operation and the learning.

To understand it, we present an explanatory model of general validity projects, but in this paper, when we talk about actors or objects we make reference to projects in the engineering field.

So, in this paper, and in order to rationalise the use in engineering projects, unconscious forms of problem solving by a group of people are presented as a psychological capacity resulting from the evolutionary phylogenetic process. The model is useful, for example, to understand: the role of the virtual collaborative work, the knowledge creation process, the management of people, and the repercussions on the learning and the projects.


Readers can ask itself why the authors of this paper explain them largely with Varela, Piaget and Vygotsky and others, when it is possible to say that the project operation is solved with common sense and experience. We would like to show to the readers
something that may be they know, but we have worked in a uncommon way and it has been a sweat.

To be respectful with our masters and the readers, first, we must try to present the phenomenological model that permits the understanding of the project operation further of a solving-problem process supported by the common sense and the experience (but not in contradiction with both) and, furthermore, conduct the formal discussion and criticism in a phenomenology of the technique.

We understand that the project activity is not the simple juxtaposition of the manners in the project, but it stems from cognitive processes. By this reason and knowing that between Piaget (1967) and Vygotsky (1934) exist differences, we like emphasise the coincidences: both formulate development theories; both are concerned cognitivist; and, the two aim to draw up a representation theory.

From any representation theory and of the concept of operational image, and of the concept of problem space defined by Newell & Simon (1972), the idea of activity zone can be developed as technical and organisational necessity, and owning to the autonomy of the individual, and place where begin the search of the solutions through representations. In this sense the activity is an answer to reach the objectives having specific resources and specific overcoming limitations. Such sense of activity does not consider the project as cognitive process, therefore, we cannot say that activity zone generates organised knowledge. Furthermore, if ‘the representations leave the scene’ (“Las representaciones abandonan la escena” -Varela, 1988-), then acquainted and known, subject and object, determine and emerge them simultaneously. In philosophical term: the knowledge is ontological’ (“Conocedor y conocido, sujeto y objeto, se determinan uno al otro y surgen simultáneamente. En términos filosóficos: el conocimiento es ontológico.” -Varela, 1988-).

We believe that the models that stem from this approach are usually troublesome and not very suitable to the current times and do not take advantage of conceptual resources of the cognitive sciences, such as: zone of proximal development, structural coupling and autopoiesis, and enaction.

The use of these conceptual resources helps to lighten the models and to resolve some practical situations observed, for example:

  • Each individual can use differently and with different purposes a common manner of apprenticeship or work.
  • Within a task, the strategy is changed, because each person has more or less conscience of her zone of proximal development, that is to say, has more or less self-taught skills. For example, a person knows what is ready to learn/to master and can take decisions with greater or lesser autonomy.
  • Each individual adjusts the task that is assigned to an optimal degree of difficulty. It is a way in which it manages its motivation.

By technical project we means the results-oriented teleological process, which operates with design actions. In this case, the design is present in each instant of the technical project, and so, the design as process has a finality. We can say that the knowledge is designed because the technical project is intensive in knowledge created and emerged in each instant.


The model is composed by three related pillars amongst themselves (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Phenomenological Model of the Project - (c) Christian Estay-Niculcar (c) Jaume Blasco i Font de Rubinat (c) Joan Masarnau

Figure 1: Phenomenological Model of the Project - (c) Christian Estay-Niculcar (c) Jaume Blasco i Font de Rubinat (c) Joan Masarnau

2.1. Fundamental Pillars

a. Proposition. The project is a group of descriptive propositions (of creation and decision) and oriented to the action, which are situated in the world of the ideas or the knowledge. For example, orders, drawings, edicts, rules and procedures, among others.

b. Activity. During the phases of the project the propositions are implemented on intermediate objects of an immaterial type (linguistic objects, by example) or material type (machinery, equipment, by example).

c. Action. The execution of propositions leads to the action that will consist, essentially, in the management of the intermediate objects of an organisational type (business structure, accountability plan, by example), artifactual type (the pencil, the PC, trucks, by example) and symbolic (maps, diagrams, sketch, by example), available and pertinent to the project.

2.2. Relations and collaborative work

The intermediate objects has an important place in the communication among the pillars of the project. Since they are generally of hybrid nature (material and immaterial), they are an excellent medium of cooperation (association of persons for common benefit, (Brittanica, 2002) and coordination among the actors of the project.


The material activity takes place on the material objects. In agreement with Leontiev (1975), the material activity concerns “to the capacity to adapt the activity to the form of any object and its reproduction.”

Two types of activities take place on the immaterial objects: immediate and mediate.

  • The immediate activity consists of the assimilation of the nature external to the own structures.
  • The mediate activity is when the object is identified through its objective interaction with other properties. This mediate activity account the finality of the activity for the individual, therefore, will be had capacity to assign purposes, so the activity is teleological. Say in other way, the collective activity makes emerge the conscience of group and, as community of practice, the own conscience of project.

Finally, the activity is richer than the forwarded activity, and the knowledge ‘which emerges from the interaction between intermediate objects and people’ are consolidated in tacit and/or explicit way.


Here is analysed the impact of the previous item on the teaching and the practice of projects with references to the virtual collaborative environments, the knowledge creation knowledge and management of people.

4.1. The return to the socratic method

The digitalisation of the information modify the knowledge creation systems as the learning and the project. These systems will produce a pertinent, coherent and truthful structured knowledge if and only if their production and treatment processes have only adequate strategies and take profit of the faculties of the actors as: deduction, prediction, formulation and verification of hypothesis, and search of interaction.

In this case, the strategy must develop one structured logic in network that includes reasoning and research processes of maieutics kind (teacher does not transmit a completely structured knowledge, but it extracts the knowledge from the own discipline).

The return to Socrates means that the centre of the learning of the project is the disciple and not the teacher, and the core of the project is the group.

4.2. Needs and space

These strategies requires technology and instruments, cognitive resources, and suitable spaces:

a. Technology (techné + logos) and instruments: Instruments of management (planning and control), expression and communication, data register, and information processing, informatic instruments and technologies of integration with the environment.

b. Cognitive resources. It includes competence such as:

  • conscience of the need to recognise the differences of rhythm and aptitudes of apprenticeship as well as the need to give suitable answers;
  • capacity: to apply active learning methods and holistic learning (“… both are not learned in short courses (!), we think”) and, look for/to find suitable tools to the individual apprenticeship styles (ways);
  • flexibility and adaptability organisational;
  • aptitude for the communication, social relations and team work; and,
  • aptitude to work in actor-network.

c. – Space:

  • ergonomic workplace;
  • ergonomic virtual space; and,
  • informatic net.

An important and remarkable space are the virtual working collaborative environments, which facilitates the communication among intermediate objects.

4.3. Pillars for the construction of the model of project

4.3.1. Activity notion

The cognitive psychology understands the mental structure as a network or web of related concepts, and admits the existence of zones more actives.

In view of a problem, the activation is high and it is the suitable moment to integrate the novelty in our frame of action-thinking: the irradiation of the activity happens.

4.3.2. Interactivity

It is the web of activities among actors in the context of the project, and is the source of the process of apprenticeship and knowledge creation.

4.3.3. Cooperation

Social interaction is essential for cognitive change that we need to work in a project. Therefore, now to cooperate implies accepting a change in the idea of space/organisation of work. Not understand it means the exclusion and/or aisle of individuals of a collective, and to stop knowledge creation process.

4.3.4. Interaction education-teaching

How we learn?, the answer is not simple, more if we assume the fact to educate
mediated the experience.

Learning and teaching are in strong interaction. A change in one of them means necessarily an immediate effect on the other, either a positive or negative sense. A structural connection must exist between teacher and disciple.


We have presented what we are doing and we thought to follow in it, after obtaining our conclusions about the manners used in projects. For this reason, we left to the reader its own readings and conclusions. We allow to give some clues.

Is it enough with the common sense to improve the practices of the operation project? Will we be not trivialyzing the common sense?

We treated, and will continue trying, to know and to give account of the details that form the common sense. Any suggestion, even about the uselessness of our work, will help us to improve.

Note: In the text we refer the year of the original edition.

  • Britannica. (2002). Source: Read 5-Sept-2002.
  • Leontiev, A.N.(1975/1984). Activité, conscience, personnalité. Éditions du Progrès, Moscou.
  • Newell, Allen; and, Simon, Herbert H. (1972). Human Problem Solving. Prentice Hall International.
  • Piaget, J. (1987). Biología y conocimiento ensayos sobre las relaciones ente las regulaciones orgánicas y los procesos cognoscitivos. Siglo XXI. México.
  • Varela, Francisco. (1996). Conocer. Colección El Mamífero Parlante. Barcelona-Madrid:GEDISA.
  • Vygotsky, Lev. (1995). Pensamiento y lenguaje. Serie Cognición y desarrollo humano. Barcelona-España:PAIDOS.


Blasco, Jaume; Estay, Chistian; y, Masarnau, Joan. (2002).Collaborative work and Knowledge creation in the project operation. En Proceedings of the VI International Congress of Project Engineering. Barcelona, España:Universidad Politécnica de Catalunya. 23-25 Octubre. ISBN 84-600-9800-1. p.59. t01-57 en CD-ROM.

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