Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rhetorical Analysis on "Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age"

In the essay “ Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age”, the author, Baxter attempts to show his anxiety towards memory crisis brought by the infiltration of new technology, or in another word, the coming of information age. He remains a very skeptical attitude to the data memory that comes to dominate people’s brain while rebukes that could result in a personal experience oblivion. “A proliferation of information causes information-inflation.That is,every individual piece of information loses some value given the sheer quality of other information.” (Baxter P.146) However, this is not a very explicit point we can observe from the title and preceded paragraphs.
Story is always the best teacher, and also an all time adequate essay starter. Baxter uses the first section to memorize his big brother, Tom, the best specimen who can play a great role in story memorizing and speech, but struggled all his life couldn’t tear down the tag of an underdog. Tom has a very rugged life that is cornered by forgetfulness, the forgetfulness on the information on paper and screens. “ Forgetting was shameful to him, and he felt it marked his way for life.” (Baxter P. 141) Maybe Tom is just a very peculiar sample of person who has an eccentric information amnesia, but behind the reader’s compassion there must be a further consideration wondering today’s information transformation mechanism, echoing with the epigraph “ We have transformed information into a form of garbage.”( Neil Postman p. 141) With questions and a story backdrop, reader's interest is stimulated and bridged into the second section for a further interpretation.
How could it possible to break the old cognition and refill a new concept of info-glut into the reader's mind? In the following sections, Baxter is really good at making examples or creating granted situations that can bring up a similar context to the reader preparing for a deeper interpretation, say, the conversation talking about “memory” on campus. “ ‘Your memory’ can now in casual conversation refer to your computer’s memory rather than your own.”( Baxter P.145) As a metaphor, Baxter channels his concept of memory afterwards in by dividing memory into personal experience and data remembering.“ Remembering data and remembering an experience are two very different activities.”( Baxter P.146) So far, Baxter has put the two conflicting words overlap help making a comparison, especially upon the problem of forgetfulness. “ In an information age, forgetfulness is a sign of debility and incompetence. It is taken as weakness, an emblem of losing one’s grip.”( Baxter P.147), however, the instance of Bill Clinton is just underneath making a contrast, as a hint foreshadowing the development of necessity of strategic amnesia in the sequel.

So you mean the most information we gained today are garbage? Why should I believe you?

Many people may response such questions when they make the first contact to such a subversive theory they never concerned. But in most cases, the philosophy from a renowned great man can always be regarded as an authority, such as Walter Benjamin’s prediction. A great way it make the author’s point convincible.“ His implication is that the coming information-glut will force experience - and the storytelling generally - into a corner and additionally force it to resort to extremes.” ( Baxter P. 149) Just like the interesting plots in the story of Ms Bartleby. “ Forgetting and shame might just serve, under the immediate surface consciousness, as an escape route of sorts.”( Baxter P.150) The data, as far as Baxter concerns, is senseless without a counterpart of experience, which is losing its importance in most people’s mind. However, the problems of forgetfulness and shame are harassing so that Baxter offers his idea dealing with shame and forgetfulness involved in personal experience remembering. That is the reason why the usage and memoir is then illustrated in the following two sections.

“ The memoir is memory’s revenge upon info-glut.”, said in the section 4. The shame, aroused by chronic information memory forget could elicit even more forgetfulness when we try to retrieve our own personal experience, embodied in writing a memoirs, say, the abnormal father distortion.“Shame comes the first, but strategic forgetting follows closely behind.”( Baxter P.153) But forgetfulness is not as worthless as the stereotype concerns. “ Maybe erasure is necessary.” Baxter believes “strategic amnesia of everyday life, both involuntary and willful.”( Baxter P.157), and has it testified through analyzing the memoir “ Lake-of- Woods.”

At the end of the essay, Baxter claims “ All the computers in the world cannot remedy it .( usage of personal experience)”( Baxter P.157) The original remembering capacity of experience is irreplaceable, even if in a developed information age. It is better to carefully control the information around us and pay more attention to our own valuable memory and experience.

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