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S a p p h o   R o a d


We are a knowledge exchange for women in Paris. A group of motivated women sharing directed discussions on philosophy, tech, science, finance, politics, the arts and more, while excluding quotidian topics: family, children, social life issues, etc. Why do we value this group? We are grateful to be surrounded by so many talented and driven women and want share with and learn from one another.

Members are encouraged to develop their own ideas to share with the group at a future meeting. Volunteers are welcome. You are not required to present to attend. Formats may vary based on the presenter’s interests and needs. Typically, a given session includes a presentation, followed by a Q&A and discussion. A light breakfast in the morning and apéro in the evening will be served. No need to bring anything but yourself and your curiosity.

Past Sessions

January 2019
- Life in the Universe
Isa J is a career-shifting renaissance woman, who left a long career in finance for a masters in climate change, yet her presentation addressed neither topic! Rather, it was an investigation into the questions about life in the universe from a scientific, fact-based approach. Intrigued from early childhood by subjects surrounding astrophysics, and inspired by her own father’s research in the field, Isa has gone on to become active in various formal groups that study this material. She feels an in depth exploration could drastically change the way we perceive the world--in her estimation, for the better. Isa’s presentation challenged and enriched our preconceived notions.

December 2018
- Workshop: Hands-on Intro to Using Crypto
In our last talk of the year, Tamara Helenius held another workshop to introduce the crypto-curious, especially those without financial or technical backgrounds, to Bitcoin, the most widely known cryptocurrency. The workshop entailed:

- Seen/Unseen: Art and Uranium
Jo’s presentation “Seen/Unseen” gave those in attendance a look at the unexpected and widespread contamination that (quietly) covers the wilderness of Utah. Jo has been documenting the Utah uranium mines for two years and is part of a project that hopes to illuminate the toxic legacy of radioactive materials formerly used in weaponry and the impact they still have among populations, including the indigenous peoples of Utah and other areas (to say nothing of a recent successful lobbying campaign that intends to “scale back Bears Ears National Monument” in order to restart uranium mining on the once protected land).

Jo’s work is based in photography though not limited by its conventional expressions, but is rather directed toward various forms of cameraless photography. She has, for example, created striking visual pieces using photo receptive techniques with uranium, a method first introduced in the 1800s, and part of her recent installations have included glass itself made from uranium, which produces an ominous, green glowing effect. Beyond the art itself, Jo’s exploration of the uranium mines and getting her hands physically on Marie Curie’s notebooks in Paris are themselves part of the creative engagement, where the process of actualizing a project is just as pertinent, highlighting other aspects of the human experience including perception, communication, access and education.

To learn more about Jo’s work, please visit her website, Jo Yarrington. For more on the Utah uranium mines, please visit Wise Uranium and Uranium Watch, and contact Jo directly for the latest on her collaborative research on the subject. Other contributors to the uranium mines project include Morgan Post, also of Fairfield University, Reid Elem, David Carter, Julie Olster, and Byron Howard of Utah Valley University, Hakim Sol of Long Island University, and cinematographers Nick Russel and Charles Witherspoon.

Along with poet Kim Bridford, Jo was also part of the collaborative exhibition in Paris entitled "Handwriting the Constitution", a global initiative by artist Morgan O’Hara. Jo and Kim hand-copyied the French and US Constitutions at Café de Flore and Shakespeare and Company in Paris. They had pens and paper and copies of the constitutions to share.

To find out more:
Handwriting the Constitution.
NY Times: The Constitution, by Hand.

November 2018
- The Link between Water and Peace
Thank you all for attending Sappho Road's November session for the presentation “The Link between Water and Peace” by Marie-Laure Vercambre, Director of Green Cross International’s Water for Life and Peace program. It was astounding to learn that 60% of the earth’s fresh water sources are contained in just 10 nations. The impact that this has on the accessibility of fresh water for the world’s population is incredibly dire. Not only that, but, as Marie-Laure explained, 1/3 of the world’s population currently lives in “hydric stress”, which will increase to 2/3’s of the world’s population by 2025, with 1/3 of the world at that time in absolute water scarcity. That is almost 3 billion people. How can this happen? There are several major determining factors including: demographic growth, growing demand for water, pollution and climate change. Moreover, if we look at water consumption on a global level, 70% goes to agriculture, 22% to industry and 8% to domestic use.

Marie-Laure indicated that there are two important levels at which the Global Water Crisis needs to be addressed: providing sanitation and safe drinking water worldwide, and establishing equitable and sustainable development goals. As ratified by the UN resolution of 2010, everyone has the right to water and sanitation, which is not currently a reality. What can we do, and what does Green Cross do? Promote awareness, engage politically, fundraise, consider your water footprint.
International Green Cross

October 2018
- Refugees: A Rising Nation without a Flag
Danika Jurisic, herself a refugee, shared her first-hand experiences working on the ground with refugees in makeshift camps across Paris. Born in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists, Danika spent her early life navigating the challenges of life as a refugee. Having fled her home due to war, she spent her teenage years in refugee camps in northern Croatia. Her studies led her to a degree in Art History and a second in Photography, after which she moved to France. Driven by the powerful and painful link between them, Danika has tirelessly worked to provide aid and guidance to refugees arriving in France, helping them find their way to available services and ultimately to integrate into French culture and life. "Refugees are coming, they are running from death and destruction. Nothing will stop them. It is up to all of us to take this task and create a future, create the society that will prosper together, that will include all; that will lead to economic wealth and cultural progress. By helping refugees, we are investing in our future, in our civilization. Watch her full TEDxIHEParis talk here "Beyond our limits"

Her own experiences as a refugee of the former Yugoslavia made her instinctively active in helping those currently in crisis in Paris. Beyond her own commitments to her family and career, Danika is on the ground tirelessly connecting with refugees and NGO’s on a daily basis while also bringing awareness to the public at large of the very real consequences that refugee crises have in our world today.

She suggests that we reimagine the negativity, segregation and horrific maltreatment that persists. Refugees are a part of our future, and more steps need to be taken both to integrate them and to educate the public about the positive impact of such integration (and what we can do to support it). Speaking to us about the roles we can play apart from making monetary or physical donations, Danika explained how human contact makes a tremendous difference both in the practical lives of refugees and in their personal lives and self-image. Examples included using language skills to help someone set up a bank account or visit a doctor and computer skills to help minors with digital literacy.

At the request of the group, Danika has provided a basic guide to aiding refugees locally in Paris. You can find that document here: Guide to aiding refugees in Paris.

July 2018
- Workshop: Getting Started with Crypto
Attendees became Bitcoin neophytes in one hour during Tamara Helenius' hands-on Bitcoin workshop, acquiring a wallet and participating in a Bitcoin transaction by the end of the session. Experiencing a real peer-to-peer, no intermediary digital transfer of value first-hand was empowering and exciting. (One in attendance audibly gasped when she saw the transaction to her wallet.) Tamara first pointed out the differences between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash and between the Ether / Ethereum Network and Bitcoin, then she discussed the different storage methods and their relative trade-offs (paper wallets, hardware wallets, mobile/desktop wallets, online/exchange wallets), made recommendations for the best mobile and desktop wallets, demonstrated using a hardware wallet, and reiterated the singular importance of crypto private key security (“Not your keys, not your coins.”). Tamara also showed us how to use Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain explorers (a tool that provides information about crypto currency blocks, addresses, and transactions) and live purchased Cryptokitties, a blockchain-based virtual game and marketplace, to illustrate the concept of non-fungible tokens (NFT) (unique, collectible tokens) and to demonstrate how to transact on the Ethereum network (using MetaMask, a plug-in to transact on the Ethereum blockchain via web browser).

June 2018
- Beyond Bitcoin: A Cryptoasset Primer
Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Monero. Tamara Helenius addressed the sources of confusion, noise and pollution around this subject and gave us insight into the different types of cryptoassets (spoiler alert: they’re not all cryptocurrencies), explaining how they are used and comparing what makes them different. Going into detail on a handful of examples Tamara seamlessly guided us, an inquisitive collective of non-experts, through this unfamiliar landscape. Concluding with a short history of Bitcoin —the first of its class— the significance of the secret message embedded in its very first block —the genesis block— and how it and other cryptocurrencies may impact central banking as we know it today. Ensuing discussions moved from contemplating the non-material quality of the entire system to reacting to the very material environmental impact of blockchain "mining" versus the alternatives and, finally, the idea of a hands-on workshop to deepen our understanding of crypto through first-hand experience.

- Rising Sea Levels and Why We Should Care
With her presentation "Rising sea levels and why we should care," Dr. Marissa Yates provided an engaging and thorough initiation into relevant oceanographic concepts and issues including tides and tide gauges, gravity and celestial bodies, Argo floats, absolute sea level, the geoid, altimetry, bathymetry, flood alleviation techniques and backdating modeling for acquiring historical data. Our ensuing discussions moved from the global impacts of sea levels rising, to individual and “professional” carbon footprints and how to decrease those, to the influence and interest of the public and private sectors in repairing the planet. Marissa shared this research in a fluid and welcoming format that had us listening, then asking, sharing, debating and proposing in all different manners right from the start. It was a full evening that offered another well-received and entirely unique experience at the Sappho Road knowledge exchange.

-  Introduction to a History of Feminism
From Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman to Simone de Beauvoir, Gayatri Spivak, bell hooks and Judith Butler, our introduction to a history of feminism by Dr. Katy Masuga was rich in groundbreaking female figures. We learned about strategic essentialism, phallic thinking, genderlect, écriture feminine and intersectionality--all part of the philosophical and theoretical background of so much that is happening on the ground today in the "real world." Lively ensuing discussions included fashion and feminism, queer culture and the continued controversy of "gay marriage," and the use of PGP's ("preferred gender pronouns") on college campuses and among woke families. It was fantastic to have a presentation where we could exercise and expand our awareness, knowledge and critical thinking skills on these issues of feminism at large, entirely fundamental to the mission of Sappho Road.

May 2018
- Workshop: Build Your Own Theremin
Our workshop leader, Christi Denton--Portland, Oregon-based composer and sound installation artist--guided us through the intricate and fun process of theremin building. Christi works with found sounds, electronics, and homemade and modified instruments whose creations have been performed throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. The theremin workshop was fascinating, educational and thoroughly engaging.

April 2018
- Diversity and the Media
Our presenter, journalist Adiaratou Diarrassouba, co-founder with Dolores Bakèla of the site L'Afro and the upcoming Fraîches Women Festival, shared her knowledge and insight on the origins and limitations of #metoo, on intersectionality, diversity and the media, and on a myriad of interpretations of variations of feminisms. Her site L'Afro is dedicated to bringing the presence of Franco-African women to the "mainstream," inspired by the ambitious journalists of the past and present and their desire to interact with diverse peoples and to share their stories far and wide. Adiaratou's presentation and the lively exchanges of the rest of the evening compel us to incorporate what we've learned more broadly and confidently into the other avenues of our lives.

March 2018
- What I Learned About Learning from Learning Music
The creativity and pluridisciplinarity of Dr. Xiao Xiao's multi-sensory research, along with her spirit of innovation (to say nothing of her incredible musical skills!), were riveting, inspiring and exciting to watch in action. Xiao, pianist and technologist, gave us an engaging and eye (and ear! ...and body!) opening experience on her fascinating and pedagogical work at the MIT Media Lab and on her self-taught theremin prowess.

- Behind the Scenes of the Paris Start-up Ecosystem
Tamara Piller's presentation on Station F (the largest start-up incubator in the world, located here in Paris) opened our eyes to the ambitious and generous entrepreneurial system recently set-up by Xavier Niel. Tamara also showcased her courageous and ambitious podcast Hold Tight that focuses on individual start-ups housed in Station F. Led by her theory of "The Social Valley" of French entrepreneurship vs. "The Silicon Valley" of American, we also engaged in wide-reaching and stimulating discussions on the politics, philosophy and cultural implications befitting that distinction.

February 2018
- #TRANSFARMING The Adventure of a Second Career in Agriculture
If you were wondering about “transfarming," look no further than Claire Wills Diquet's upcoming Normandy farm: Gonne Girls. Claire gave an inspiring talk on the subject, explaining how it involves rethinking the current methods of agriculture to be ecological, sustainable and self-sufficient. Claire also gave us a complete rundown on the current ambitious design of her eco-responsible farm in Normandy using transfarming techniques. The flipside of Claire's talk focused on changing careers mid-life, as she has just gone from advertising executive to farmer!

January 2018
- What Is Mediation, and When and Why Do We Need It? The surprising importance of good mediation skills in everyday life.
Benedicte Baudoin-Geiger shared with us the ins and outs of mediation. That's medIAtion and not medITAtion --both surprisingly important skills in everyday life but not the same thing (though definitely some overlap, surprisingly)! Benedicte is a lawyer and licensed mediator with experience in the nonprofit sector, who shared with us fundamental mediation techniques to employ in our professional and personal lives.

December 2017
- On Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
December's session by Dr. Nicole Hall gave us a fascinating look into philosophical positions on beauty in relation to artificial intelligence. Using her extensive research in aesthetics, Dr. Hall's argument debunked the brain-machine analogy, while also suggesting that what makes human consciousness unique cannot be quantified.

November 2017
- Climate Change and Health
November's session by Dr. Cara Maesano on health and climate change reminded us not only our role in tempering the ill effects of human industry on the planet but the detrimental and widespread effects on our health that we are often oblivious to.

October 2017
- Blockchain Demystified
Our first session was a great success. Tamara Helenius presented "Blockchain Demystified" and got us all abuzz about this paradigm-shifting technology. Tamara broke down the otherwise baffling structure of the technology and its potential and had even the luddites among us on the edge of our seats.


To learn more or join an upcoming session, email us.