Futurefemmes: Well, there is one more thing I am curious to ask you about. I mean, I know you have another life, as photographer Veronika von Volkova. But I get the sense that you don’t include Veronika in your professional life.
Yaremchuk: You can definitely ask me Veronika von Volkova things if you want. She’s not at all a secret, and a lot of people I work with know about her.
Veronika von Volkova, 2013.Yaremchuk “I actually was still doing all my photo stuff under my real name maybe three years ago or so. So there really is no plausible deniability if I ever wanted to pretend I’ve never posted an image in which I’m naked. I really can’t imagine myself ever wanting to deny it though.Marcelo (my PhD supervisor) totally knows about my photography. We haven’t really discussed it much. We certainly have never discussed nudity, but he’s seen at least some of it.I invented Veronika von Volkova because at some point the photography stuff was completely drowning out my research when people googled me. I never had a problem with people finding my photography, but I didn’t like that they were having trouble finding my research. It was around 5 or 6 pages deep into the returns before you’d hit it, which is unsurprising since photo stuff just updates so much more frequently than my research. It really just started as an organisational detail, and then since I was coming up with a new name anyway I decided to have some fun with it.”
Veronika von Volkova, 2013Yaremchuk I’m actually open to the idea of collaborating with Veronika one day if I do something crossmedia or even just involving image and computation.
Veronika von Volkova, 2013
Futurefemmes: I guess that this kind of attitude to your private self is both more and less acceptable in a programmer’s world. I mean, I’ve seen reports that gender equality is a big problem in tech industries, but nevertheless that if you can code, then it is still a pretty merit-based environment.
YaremchukI encounter stereotypes relating to gender more than anything else. The great majority of the time, everyone I work with is fantastic, but I still have a bunch of terrible stories to tell. Every other woman I know in tech seems to have the same, even if they too have plenty of positive experiences as well.
I don’t have what some of these people (from the set of negative encounters) consider the right body type for an intellectual woman. The trouble is that if a person thinks what I look like has anything at all to do with my mathematical or programming capabilities, then I am going to have a very difficult time taking their capacity for logic seriously. Similarly, if someone encounters me in a tech setting and still thinks their ideas about gender are more relevant to anticipating my interests than the fact that we’re at some technology-based conference or institution, I’m not left with a very inspiring picture of their ability to select the most relevant features for decision making.
Yaremchuk: I’ve actually been told I’m “mannish” a number of times. This is a strange one in that it is always delivered as if the speaker thinks they are complimenting me. What they seem to mean is that my attitudes/behaviours/interests/aptitudes are those they would expect from a man, but here we have yet another logical failing. In this situation, I am actually a counter example, which indicates that their original assumptions about gender and interests were incorrect and need to be revised. Attempting to label me as mannish is an effort to treat me as merely an exception who can be safely ignored thus avoiding the necessary work of revising ones beliefs.