In the essay, “Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age” by Charles Baxter, an immense amount of information in the information age has been produced and spread over by technological development. As a result, ‘forgetting’ information is caused by excessive information, and ‘shame’ is followed by forgetting information. Except for those effects, a trend to make light of personal experience has been brought about. In order to appeal personal experience, people begin to write ‘memoir.’ However, the problem is that, as including the forgetting of memory and the shame, memoir loses the original characteristics and turns into dysfunction narrative. Therefore, information-glut leads to forgetting and shame as well as damages precious personal experience that is supposed to be true or sincere. Baxter seems to portray the negatives of excessive information.
In order to present the negatives in the information age, Baxter depicts his essay by dividing into five parts. First, he begins with his brother’s story. His brother, Tom, had a problem with learning printed information. This problem made Tom have a hard time to live in the information age. However, even though he did not fit well in the information age, he has abilities to barely forget what he heard and to narrate stories. Baxter says, “Tom was an outcast of the information age.”(p141) Regardless of what capacities Tom had, the fact that Tom did not go on acquiring printed information smoothly made him different from others in the information age. The author implies that learning information through computers or books is more essential than anything.
In the second part, Baxter gives readers basic background information about what is going on the information age, what phenomenon the age brings about, and what people are missing. As incalculable information are accumulating and overflows at last, it is impossible to acquire all information. Even if people do not memorize all, they already have too much information. For this, inevitably, remembering the immense information could not avoid from ‘forgetting.’ It is just only that people should lose memory. However, in the information age, forgetting memory can be the sign of losing authority and power in society. For this, Baxter exemplifies one, “Their lives and their authority depend upon their ability to remember, and to remember their subjects in public.”(p144) That implies that remembering information is important and the information age is based on memorizing information. After forgetting information, one feels ‘shame’ due to the fact that one loses the most important medium to live in the information age. Moreover, the interesting point in the second part is the appearance of two forms of memory, data and experience. In the information age, people tend to rely on data too much and care about how much data they remember. They do not care about their own experience. In the information age, personal experience begins to be undervalued by pushing out a massive amount of data. In the third part, the needs of restoring the value of personal experience are pointed by Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Storyteller” (1936). “Experience.” Benjamin says, “has fallen in value.”(p149) Benjamin is emphatic about the significance of personal experience. In other words, he seems to alarm that, absorbed in acquiring data, people are totally oblivious of their own experience.
In the last two parts, Charles Baxter cautions that forgetting and shame caused by information-glut do damage to personal experience. As realizing the importance of personal experience, memoir that contains the experience begins to stand out. Baxter mentions, “What you remember is the key to who you are” to appeal the importance of experience. The former form of memoir should be a functional personal narrative and include the details. In the information age, forgetting and shame begin to involve in memoir or cause a trauma to writers. As a result, new form of memoir is created as dysfunctional narratives. Baxter throws a question, “the shame if forgetting, the necessity of it. What help is the data if you don’t’-if you can’t and won’t-remember the story?”(p155) Through this question, Baxter seems to suggest that much information is possibly unnecessary. People severely suffer from an infinite quantity of information and are sick of remembering information. For this concern and authors’ trauma, information that is supposed to be necessary might be erased in literature. Thus, readers might be confused of unaccountable fact.
In conclusion, Charles Baxter’s essay comments that information glut gives people forgetting, the pressure of shame by forgetting, and destructing personal experience. The tendency that people count on data has undervalued personal experience. For encouraging personal experience, evading data is not possible unconditionally in the information age. The point that people should keep in mind is that a man’s worth should be not because of how much data one remembers but because of how much one’s own experience one possesses.