In the essay “Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age” by Charles Baxter, he seems to remind people that they are not aware of their need for living in the information era. In modern age, industrial development has caused prodigious amounts of information. For this reason, increased information makes people confusion about the information whether which information is useful or not. In Baxter’s essay, he might suggest that people need to think how we select useful information and put it in our memory.
Before the essay begins, Baxter provides an epigraph "We have transformed information into a form of garbage." (p.141). It gives a clue to the readers what the author tries to say before reading. From this epigraph, the readers easily recognize that he has a negative view of information with representing as garbage. This kind of author’s perspective on information helps the readers’ understanding of information in modern society.
Baxter begins his essay with a personal insight from his brother, Tom. In his essay “Tom was an outcast of the information age,” (p.141) his brother cannot possible to learn printed information. However, he has a special ability to remember narrative information. For example, he never forgets someone’s names he ever met before and stories he ever heard before. Although he tries to absorb printed information trough his life, he cannot achieve it. He feels shame life because of forgetting the information. The author tries to explain modern people who live in a flood of information through Tom’s story. His brother story is not only personal story but also it implies suffering from shame in information society that is by forgetting of information.
This essay is divided into five parts. In the first part, Baxter states about his brother in order to show that there are two kinds of information in information age. One is information from a personal experience. Another is information from based on data. In the second part, he explains getting information with confusion from data and experiences. He says “A proliferation of information causes information-inflation. That is every individual piece of information loses some values given the sheer quantity of other information. Some information turns quickly into garbage. Bad information may well force out good, in a Gresham’s Law of data processing.” (p.146) With the development of society, increasing the amount of information causes “information-inflation.” As a result, he indicates that exposure too much information brings the confusion of the value of information. In the third part of the essay, Baxter emphasizes the importance on memory from empirical experiences. He takes some parts from the essay “The Storyteller” which is written by Benjamin. “Benjamin argues that the explosion of information in the Modern Age is denying us something precious: ‘the ability to exchange experiences.’ That is, storytelling.” (p.149) As Benjamin says, modern people forget the value of experiences by the side effects of information-glut. People live in poor experience and in rich data-memory. In the forth part of the essay, Baxter points that even though memoirs should be based on someone’ experiences, it also is affected by strategic amnesia. In the essay, “In a dysfunctional narrative, true accountability vanishes. No one seems to be responsible for anything, or else the wrong people are accused of what many not, in fact, have happened at all. This is usually a complex response to shame” (p.153) he explains how strategic amnesia effects in a memoir. Editors try to remove some parts of bad memories unwittingly in writing about memoirs, since they do not want to be responsible for accusing. In this process, they feel shame. In the fifth part, the author informs the appearance of the new kind of literature which it relies on erasure. However, this literature seems like to be in a chaotic situation by itself due to the missing a lot of information. The structure of this essay flows step by step effectively. Following the each step, the author leads the reader into his purpose.
In Baxter’s essay, there are some clever devices to keep the reader thinking. He keeps on trying to communicate with the readers by asking to them. In his essay, “Where do you go, what do you do, if you can’t manage the printed information that we churn out? What becomes of you?” (p.142) these kinds of questions wait for the reader in somewhere. For the question, the author induces us to take part in his essay. It also helps us to understand his purpose. From this question, he gives idea to us how people can live in the information age as being human, if we would not handle it.
In the information age, Baxter’s essay seems to point the side effect of American society out. He indicates the development of technology makes people live in a flood of information, and makes us obtain needless information. People are swayed by the information with too much information. Nowadays, it is necessary we find the ways how to control information more effectively. As Baxter mentions the solution of it “All computers in the world cannot remedy it.,” (p. 157) information society cannot be recovered by itself. In order to do so, above all, people should know what information exactly they need. After that, the ability to distinguish the effective information would be required.