I am trying to cover a variety of themes linked to new work, smart education and digital transformation in general with my weekly thoughts. Through my research, collaborations and consulting work I have the chance to get in contact with a lot of great minds and their sometimes radical approach to issues or the status quo.
I have a deeply felt need to share these voices. We all want and need to be inspired, challenged and questioned…

This new series, called thoughtleaders, will sporadically present a variety of interesting, sometimes radical thoughts and the individuals having them. We will all be able to read about their ideas linked to education, the future, science, the digital revolution or other current subjects and reflect on them.

Here is the interview with our first thoughtleader Ksenija Mjasnikova:
Data Analyst, serious Entrepreneur and Academic at heart, Ksenija is known for her forward thinking approach in the Fashion Industry. Her challenging ideas and applications have made her a pioneer in predicting the now existing branch of “Digital Fashion”. She elaborates on where her academic research has brought her, where she wants to take it and what influence gamification could have on education.

Ksenija Mjasnikova

In 2020 you have won the Global Fashion Conference Award for Best Research on Innovation. Your innovative work is around the influence of e-sports on digital fashion. Can you please explain in a few words? 

The idea to link fashion and gaming struck me back in 2019 when I was working on my MA thesis in Istituto Marangoni, Paris. In a conversation with e-sports enthusiasts, I discovered that people are spending real money on skins inside video games to dress up their avatars. The further we talked the deeper I wanted to explore this world that seemed so new and fascinating to me. I also found out that e-sports is a well-structured worldwide phenomenon with millions of fans, idols, and sponsors. It was then when I clearly saw how fashion could be easily integrated into this community, in particular digital fashion, that is created specifically for cyberspace. My research demonstrated that gamers represent an unexplored target with great purchase potential, for which it is native to consume digital products. The study has been transformed into a book, “Transcending the Physical Body: the Influence of E-sports on Digital Fashion” that can be purchased through various international book retailers.

“Futurism” has always been a passionating research area for me and I was among the pioneer researchers to hypothesize the emergence of a concept like “digital fashion” back in 2017. In one of my papers, I predicted that this type of fashion would maximize the use of elements of the digital world, which turned out to be exactly what happened. 

Where would you like this research to be pushed in the near future? Can you share some hypothesis of what you think / wish you would find?

The direction that I want to take my research into now is practical implementation. I am using the findings and the knowledge gained during my academic study as a foundation of FRAKS© Paris, which is a tech-oriented intelligence agency focused on marketing and communication. I co-founded the agency together with a strategic consultant and a fashion tech expert, Frank Pouchoulin. 
Besides creating ad-hoc strategies for our clients, Fraks© aims to become a point of reference in the area that merges fashion and gaming. We are building a platform, a community that informs and unites fashion and gaming enthusiasts by making their voices heard on different social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitch.

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In terms of predictions, I think that mankind will keep on conquering the digital world and exploring its potentials deeper. I am convinced that the experiences that we will be able to “live” online as avatars will keep multiplying and become richer both technologically and emotionally. 
Lastly, I have to admit that I also consider resuming my academic career in the future and aim for a Ph.D. related to fashion tech as well as lecturing.

There are some shaky attempts, as well as very good practice linked to the introduction of games or the concept of gamification into Education. With your background, both as a researcher into “the gaming community” and your work as a data analyst, how do you see this subject play out? Where are the boundaries?

This is a fascinating subject, as gamification has been implemented in various industries from Education to the Military and has proven to demonstrate excellent results. For example, in 2017 the Danish armed forces started to search for gamers that could join the ranks of pilots, flight commanders, and radar operators. It was found that gamers have developed multiple skills such as remaining calm under pressure, orientating well, reacting, and making decisions quickly. 

Overall, the main goal of gamification is to engage the user through motivational psychology and the core principle of this practice has always been a part of the Education system. If we think about it, the first knowledge gained by kids usually comes in a game format. While before it was mostly done through real-life games, now it’s transitioning to the computer screens. 

Ultimately, gaming satisfies 4 out of 5 of the basic human needs described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is why to a certain extent almost everyone may be considered a gamer. Hence, gamification is an approach that has the potential to be suitable for a large group of people.

Your current favourite book? What is special about it?

My pick is a book by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari called “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow”. This book made me look differently at many things. Each chapter is filled with brilliant thoughts that almost make you feel like a Neanderthal with an iPhone, living in his bubble without seeing a big picture of the world. I never realized that such a multitude of non-obvious cause-and-effect relationships forms the vector of human evolution.

I agree with the author on the idea that humans today keep having less space for faith, as we are gradually being replaced by computer algorithms. At the same time, the future cannot be predicted with accuracy, because any prediction immediately changes it, and we have the strength to change predictions, change ourselves and, therefore, change the future.

High technologies and algorithms are actively changing our lives, making it easier and more multifaceted. As a data analyst, I see this happening on the daily basis. At the same time, our personal data becomes more and more accessible for different algorithms. This is the whole essence of the emerging problem: what power will algorithms eventually have over people? Will they have any? And what will happen to us?

Thank you very much Ksenija. I am looking forward to reading and seeing more of your innovative work very soon.


Thomas Brigger asked the questions in an interview via email in February 2021.
Picture courtesy of Garguillo Mélissa, 2018