Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Assignment 1.2. Due 7/7/2010

The essay read is Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age by Charles Baxter. The essays controling pupose focuses on his interest in memory and an overarching concept that being book/work smart is not everything. Baxter's idea about memory and living everyday through person to person communication begins with his handicap brother who is unable to retain information from books and writings. He labels this the information age, meaning most of our information is derived from books or educational basis and we are losing the storytelling process of face to face dicussions. The essay addresses the audience with the importance of his concept of memory and the abilities it holds, remembering certain memories and deleting other memories. Baxter's goal of accomplishment seems to be to open the reader's eyes to the amazing powers of memory and the infatuated emphasis on reading and writing communication. The essay attempts to allow the reader to explore their interpretation of the world, technology, memory, forgetting and shame. Numerous times in the text Baxter addresses his understanding of these five interconnecting aspects of the world but does not directly come out and say it for the reader. By Baxter discussing memory and giving us bits of his personal opinion it allws the reader to fully explore the text from a semi unbiased persepective and explore their own thoughts about the world, technology, memory, forgetting and shame.

Baxter's essay was designed to help us understand that we are living in an age that is obsessed with technological information. His purpose is to open the audiences eyes to the two different types of memory used in this age and the problem with only relying on technological memory. He begins his essay by introducing us to his brother who seems to ahve a cognitive disability and is unable to retain book information but has an amazing ability to remember everything he hears. Baxter declares his brother "Tom was an outcast of information age. Perhaps every family has one"(p.141). In this information age individuals like Tom are being left behind because they have an inability to keep up with the information ages idea of memory This idea of memory places an overarching emphasis on individuals being book smart and being able to prove this knowledge through memory. Baxter discusses the importance that individuals place on their memory and describes it as a level of pride or comfort, "People here often take considerable pride in their minds and more particularly in their memories"(p.144). What Baxter is trying to address here is individuals' misconception of memory. In this information age individuals think they have a great amount of knowledge and take this knowledge to be memory. With this misconception of memory follos a loss of personal experiences shared through person to person interaction. "Benjamin argues that the explosion of information in the modern age is denying us something precious: 'the ability to exchange experiences.' This is, Storytelling"(p.149). This portion of his essay addresses his concept that literature is replacing the importance of storytelling, the importance of personal connections with storries and the effect this has on our personal memories.

The intended audience for Baxter's essay seems to be everyone but more directly the younger generations. The essay intends to help the reader explore their percetions of the world, technonly, memmory, forgetting, and shame. "What you remember is key to who you are"(p.151). This is an important concept Baxter's essay addressed to the audience because he is laying down the foundation of importance that memory has on everyone. While also addressing the concept that "No one can absorb all the information"(p.146) and the implications this can have on individuals.

The context of Baxter's piece takes an extensive approach to the two types of memory, technological memory and personal memory and the implications that can have on individuals. Primarily focusing on the information age and technology can have an effect on individuals' memory causing forgetting and shame. "Forgetfulness meaning that your mind may have crashed"(p.148). Meaning you mind is in an amnesic state. Baxter describes the minds amazing ability to decide which information to retain and which information to discard. "Strategic amnesia has everything to do with the desire to create or destroy personal history"(p.145). This concept of amnesia seems to be centered around the inability to place personal experiences on information in the information ages causing forgetfulness to be more pronounced. The interaction of storytelling is becoming extinct because of emphasis on literature, reading and writing. "American memoirs of the past two decades are some of the most powerful literary documents that we have created during this period, in part, I think, because they have taken seriously conditions of innocence and the subsequent corruption or fall from that innocence, and seen it in relation to storytelling"(p.152). this concept of forgetfulness leads to individuals expreiencing shame. "No one seems to be resonsible for anything, or else the wrong people are accused of what may not, in fact, have happened at all. This is usually a complex response to shame"(p.153). As I stated before Baxter's text addressed the minds ability to create and destroy information, this concept supports his notion that when indivduals expreience shame from no remembering certain aspects of memory the mind begins to fill in the blanks with its perceptions of events. "The shame of forgetting"(p.155), there is an emphasis on the ability to remember and the mind determines what information is retained and what is rejected. This can be beneficial if the mind is deleting painful memories or harful when it's deleting information that information age deems necessary information.


  1. Reading your thoughts about this essay was interesting and I agree with what your wrote the mind has the ability to create and destroy information. Its so true we all have done it before. I totally gtot that from reading this essay written by Baxter.

  2. I agree with your thoughts on this essay because i too believe that people destroy there minds by not using it the right way