Are pictures worth a thousand words? The effect of information presentation type on citizen perceptions of government websites
With the increasing disclosure of public information and government data through information and communication technologies, along with the considerable privately generated data now available online, individuals have access to a huge volume of information. This "disintermediation" of (i.e., greater direct access to) public information may improve transparency and facilitate citizen engagement, but it may also overwhelm citizens not only with too much information but also by requiring them to take responsibility for gathering, assembling, and processing information. Despite the importance of effective information processing to successful use of available information, existing studies have not yet fully integrated this consideration into research on citizen use of egovernment and open government data. Based on information processing theory-according to which individuals have a finite information processing capacity, which is affected not only by the quantity and quality of information but also by one's preferences for how information is presented-this study examined the effects of information presentation type (infographic versus text) on perceived information overload, along with the consequent effect of information overload on perceived website usefulness. We also investigated whether individual information processing propensity (visual or verbal) moderated the effect of information presentation type on perceived information overload. Our results showed that textual information tended to cause greater information overload, especially for those with a propensity for visual information processing, and that higher information overload was associated with a lower perception of website usefulness. Moreover, individual information propensity moderated the effect of information type on perceived information overload; people with visual information processing propensity were more strongly affected by the presentation of textual information. We discuss the implications of our findings for improving the communication of policy information through government websites.
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