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Pamphlet written in the hand of William Herschel giving instructions for the use of his Newtonian reflecting telescope with altazimuth stand
Autumn 2022, Congruence Engine | Manifesto

The Congruence Engine Manifesto

Alex Butterworth

The Congruence Engine:
  • is conceived as a ‘social machine’ that coordinates and harmonises a range of digital technologies, and human curiosity and capabilities, to generate new constellations of collective knowledge
  • champions a principle of contribution according to ability and access according to need, allowing ownership of digitised knowledge to be kept local, control to be federated, expertise to be valorised, and contribution to be micro-accredited
  • will serve many purposes and agendas, which cannot be fully anticipated, but is designed to manifest a responsive and accommodating elasticity, uninhibited by the conventions of existing institutions (while respectful of their legacies)
  • constitutes a mechanism for negotiation between human and computationally legible information, which must recognise and mediate twin ideals: of precision and standardisation; and expressive nuance, idiosyncrasy and fluidity
  • embraces the tentative and provisional, the partial and incomplete, the imperfect and the contradictory, modelling these as spaces for imaginative engagement and participatory contribution
  • recognises that knowledge is in a state of continual construction, the provenance of the information used and the condition in which it is held – often uncertain, ambiguous, a balance of probabilities – is recorded and made accessible as an invitation to improvement
  • processes and manages knowledge whose operation crosses multiple spatial and temporal scales and levels of detail. Ease of movement between these states is a key principle for the exploratory but contextualised representation of that knowledge
  • is both conscientiously calibrated to mitigate bias, as a hybrid social machine, and continuously retuned to capture (and discover) previously overlooked or excluded areas of knowledge that challenge, refine, expand and reshape national stories
  • draws its propulsive energy from a wide community that represents the diversity of the twenty-first century nation, at all levels of the engine’s design and operation, and which confers its legitimacy and ensures its sustainability
  • prototypes a framework for the creation of a national datascape of cultural heritage as an act of cathedral building: generational in its trajectory, with the capacity to incorporate new methods of knowledge representation, data integration and mediated exploration
  • reifies a new and radical vision of knowledge production as a site of active citizenship, in which cultural heritage communities-of-interest are in a continual and fluid process of coalescence to the mutual benefit of those involved.



This manifesto was inspired by the project’s opening conference at Saltaire in February 2021. It is a digital historian’s response to the potential of the Congruence Engine project as discussed in that first meeting.


Congruence Engine is supported by AHRC grant AH/W003244/1.



Alex Butterworth

Alex Butterworth

Research Fellow

Alex Butterworth is Research Fellow in Digital Publishing and Data Visualization (Informatics) and Research Fellow (History) at the University of Sussex. He is a Project Lead, Digital History, on the Congruence Engine project


Alex Butterworth
Published date:
8 February 2023
Cite as:
The Congruence Engine Manifesto
Published in:
Autumn 2022, Congruence Engine
Article DOI: