In Charles Baxter's essay Shame and Forgetting the Information Age, he covers a wide range of people and how technology, forgetting, memory, print, and shame ties into one. Throughout the text he talks about his brother Tom (at the beginning) and then ventures off into mentioning others and how they react to the information age. He also includes text from others writers like Walter Benjamin, who wrote "The Storytellers" (1936). Shame and Forgetting the Information Age really goes in depth about the whole concept of memory and technology. Baxter's main purpose, I feel, in writing this essay is to show the two different kinds of memory people can have the first being personal memory and the second one being information memory. Many people feel shame in not memorizing something. Baxter's thought on forgetting is that we should not be shameful, if something is forgotten. Even though his brother Tom had a learning disability he did not want him to be shame if he could not remember things of the information age well, because his memory of experience (or personal) was excellent. For many of those who grew up in the age of print this new era of technology is more difficult for them. Memorizing information was a bit more complicated and challenging. Now in today's world you have all the computers and technology in the world to help you with all sorts of things even memorizing. People tend to reflect more on the negative things in life verse the good, just as now where people rely more on technology then themselves. Neil Postman states, "We have transformed information into a form of garbage" (141), what I get from this quote is that we have taken the power that we have in technology and over used that power. We now use technology for wasteful things; it is no longer used for information only but for play as well. We take for granted the technology we have and rely too heavily on it.
Our memories are extremely valuable to us and we can take for granted the positions they hold. A strong point in Baxter’s essay is when he mentions strategic amnesia. Baxter states that “Strategic amnesia might be an appropriate phrase to describe how we are coping with information-glut” (145). With the two different kinds of memory that Baxter says we hold it becomes difficult to function with both kinds of memory. We tend to get confused and we may become frustrated on which type of memory to use. So Baxter says that we forget and this becomes amnesia. Strategic amnesia can destroy personal and/or historical memory. As I try to break down my understanding of the text I feel that everyone is in charge of their memory whether it being personal or information. There are times when we as individuals forget things important and non-important, and we may get a taste of amnesia, but we should be setting our own priorities. If we chose to focus more on the information that we pertain to then our own personal history then that would be the individual’s choice. Walter Benjamin states that, “Remembering data and remembering an experience are two very different activities. It is possible that the quantity of data we are supposed to remember has reduced our capacity to remember or even to have experiences…” (146).After reading that quote I can understand what Walter Benjamin is trying to say. Many times an individual can get lost in their jobs or work that they forget about life. Handling too many projects at once can get over-whelming and frustrating. As I stated above once before, it is all about priority, and jobs are at the top of the list but if you can ever use a break or not put on as much work then try not too because everyone needs time to keep themselves sane.
The information Age is an important one and is resourceful and valuable to all of us today. A while ago the age of print was more valuable but many of printed information can be all found on computers now. Technology has exceeded itself times a thousand and can be extremely advanced that sometimes it can get complicated for us. Technology has become so powerful that many things have taken the place of jobs that individuals once possessed. Information and experience ties in well together and it has come to a point where we have taken the information and experience we have in factories and on machines and found out a way to use technology to make things less hands on or controlled by man. This is a really huge step and achievement but it takes away from the people as far as employment. “Experience has fallen in value” (149) Walter Benjamin states, many interpretations can come out of this but following what I am speaking about my interpretation may be different. Since many jobs are taken due to technology and self working machines and robots, experience from individuals is non-important anymore because they are just not needed in the working field. The value of the working man has fallen and that can be seen as a bad thing for the economy.
Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age, covered many issues. My final thoughts on the essay are that overall it was a well thought out and well written essay. I enjoyed Baxter’s opinions on how the information age has changed us. I only feel that Baxter may have focused more on the negative things of the information age than some of the good that comes from it. The information age brought along with it easier ways to control and maintain informational and personal memory. The negative side of things is that the more technology that we have to improve the way we live the less vital jobs will be to our working class. Baxter’s strong point of views and the way he used other’s thoughts and information helped out with his understanding and mine of the information age.