How is technology changing who we are and how we interact with each other as more and more of our waking hours are spent on social media? Who are we becoming — as individuals and as members of society — the more we engage in technology-mediated spaces that are increasingly populated by robots and AI? These are the kinds of questions that have fascinated Ulrike Schultze, a professor in information technology and operations management (ITOM) at SMU Cox, for years.

This summer, Schultze was made full professor at the Cox School. The promotion, says Schultze, will allow her to work on more ambitious projects than ever before. “It provides me a platform that allows me to think much bigger than I’ve allowed myself to think in my career,” she says.

A Different Approach to Technology

Schultze came to Cox in 1997, after receiving her PhD in management from Case Western Reserve University; in 2004, she was awarded tenure. Over the years, her research has been published in leading information systems journals such as Information Systems Research, Management Information Systems Quarterly and Information and Organization — and she is currently serving as a senior editor at Journal of the Association of Information Systems.

The Dallas area, with its enormous range and diversity of business organizations, has been the perfect home for Schultze, whose research is directly related to how technology impacts people and groups. She has looked at everything from the ways in which virtual reality environments can be used as legitimate communication media in workplaces to the ethics of online human subject research. Working alongside colleagues in both academia and the corporate world, Schultze is moving beyond the traditional questions about technology — How do we build it? How do we design it to fulfill certain objectives? — to envision the various effects it has when, as she describes it, the technology is put into the wild. “We frequently talk about the unintended consequences, if not outright failure, of technology implementation,” she says. “It’s that aspect that I try to understand.”

To that end, Schultze must stay at the cutting edge of technologies such as blockchain and VR and the latest incarnations of social media platforms. She is currently looking at the different ways that AI and “algorithmic phenomena” are impacting and will continue to impact all of our lives in the coming years; in a forthcoming research study, she examines the ethics of using AI in hiring. “That’s something that, of course, could really impact my students,” she says.

Digital Transformation and Its Effects

Schultze has several other research projects in the works, some of which will be done in collaboration with doctoral students from other countries. In the coming years, she hopes to continue to focus on who we’re becoming in the face of increasing digital transformation and how to make digital transformation more effective in organizations.

She also plans to keep up her research on the burgeoning world of social media and its effects on society — even if, as she confesses, she’s not on social media all that much herself. “I don’t have the time, to be quite honest,” she laughs. “I’d like to understand people who thrive in this environment. I’d like to understand the logic. But I don’t feel that I need to become a part of it. I think that’s the difference in ethnographic work. You sort of have a choice in terms of how involved you get.”