After a two-week process of ideating a participatory installation, and editing it down to something clear and concise, today I arrived to something that starts to sound convincing.
Change a bit (working title) is an art installation, a human-powered computation machine that attempts to answer what can be achieved through individual action, or conversely, what can be achieved through collective action.
The installation consists in a set of bricks in the floor, and a screen showing a grid with colored cells. Every brick has long faces of two different colors, for example one is white and the other is black. The participants are invited, one at a time, to flip the bricks they want. Each change in the state of the bricks is reflected as a change in the screen. However, the change in the screen is indirect; instead of having a cell in the grid for each brick, the bricks encode information that gets translated in the grid, specifically indicating which cell to modify and with which color. This is similar to the same way digital bits can encode different filetypes and programs, and is related to the idea of emerging complexity out of simple elements or rules.
A sketch/demo of the screen behavior can be seen here (the bricks are represented as checkboxes).
Important aspects of the system are that 1) it keeps its history in the screen; and that 2) any major change (like erasing the whole history) would require many brick movements. Therefore, at any point in time, the grid shows an accumulation of decisions and actions.