How The Good Wife transformed TV

With its melding of genres, excellent acting, complex characters and refusal to be obvious, Alicia Florrick changed not just network TV, but the whole medium

There is something about watching an episode of The Good Wife that brings me immense joy, like eating a delicious Italian dinner, the seamless conversation when catching up with old friends, or the giddy aura after an amazing first date. Thats how I felt every Sunday for seven years tuning into what Ive long considered to be the best show on television. All of that delight will be robbed from me when the series leaves CBS after its final episode on Sunday 8 May at 9pm EST.

The Good Wife is ostensibly not a show so many critics and fans should enjoy. During this age of peak TV, it is not on one of the prestige channels like AMC, FX or HBO. It is on CBS, a fuddy-duddy network whose logo should be a teapot on a doily rather than an eye. Its also, ostensibly, a procedural drama, something that CBS churns out like a factory, ripping out shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds season after season to huge ratings and absolutely zero critical buzz.

But what The Good Wife does to the procedural is perhaps the best thing about it. It tells the story of Alicia Florrick (Emmy winner Julianna Margulies) as she is forced back to work as a lawyer after decades at home raising her children when her politician husband Peter (Chris Noth) is sent to prison for using state funds to pay for sex workers. Since shes back at the law there is a case-of-the week format interwoven with the ongoing arc of Alicias growth and redemption.

Unhappy couple: Chris Noth stars as Alicia Florricks philandering husband. Photograph: CBS/Allstar/CBS

There have been many shows that have tried to combine procedural and serialized stories, but most of them fail. Those that dont cant maintain the seamless balance mastered by The Good Wife. Either the cases get short shrift (as on How to Get Away with Murder), the narrative completely takes over from the cases (Scandal), or the ongoing narrative takes a backseat to solving the crimes (Castle). The Good Wife uses the two stories in concert, often using one to drive and amplify the other. A perfect example is the season four finale, where Lockhart Gardiner helps acquit Peters husband of ballot box-stuffing so he can become governor, a case of the week that directly affects Alicias life. And by helping Peter triumph, her lover and boss Will Gardener (Josh Charles) might stand a better chance of winning her for good, adding more depth to this serialized story.

In this episode and others, like the one where Alicia, her coworker Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), and other associates race against the clock to start their own firm before the bigwigs at Lockhart Gardiner find out, there is an urgency to the storytelling that is more nail-biting than any action show like The Walking Dead. Its use of cliffhangers is also unparalleled, concluding the show in unexpected places right before viewers get all the answers they want. It would be mind-blowingly frustrating if it werent so brilliant.

The Good Wife is equally concerned with the complicated inner machinations of Lockhart Gardiner, the law firm where Alicia goes to work, which has had more iterations and names than the much-married Alexis Carrington. Its sort of like Game of Thrones, where regime changes are fast and alliances are constantly formed and broken. And, like Game of Thrones, it works because we care deeply about all of the characters.

Back in season five: with Ben Rappaport as Carey Zepps and Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos. Photograph: CBS

Speaking of characters, The Good Wife had one of the best rogues galleries of recurring players of any show on television, most of them played by outstanding New York actors like Nathan Lane, Michael J Fox and David Hyde Pierce. Even Matthew Perry, Taye Diggs and Amanda Peet stopped by. But it was tuning in to surprised by an appearance by screwball attorney Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), overworked mother Patti Nyholm (Martha Plimpton), or devious defense attorney Nancy Crozier (Mamie Gummer) that made the show like dropping in at a local bar where you know everyones name and couldnt wait to see who would turn up next.

These are all technical reasons why The Good Wife has always been great, but the stories it tells have always been relevant and insightful without being shallow ripped from the headlines ratings ploys. The Good Wife tackled the use of drones and how they impinge on privacy; the complications that can arise from bitcoin; and Chicagos Homan Square better than most news agencies, let alone serialized dramas. There has also been an ongoing storyline about the NSA eavesdropping on Alicia and her husband which not only satirized the ways in which the Patriot Act is intruding on our lives, but even humanized the spies as people just trying to make a living.

Similarly, the show never fell for easy moralizing, or a predictably liberal political agenda. One the firms largest clients was a Republican donor (Oliver Platt) who would use the firm to test lawsuits that would advance rightwing ideology. The leftwing firm always pressed against him, but his beliefs were always given equal weight, even if his cases sometimes lost.

With Zach Grenier as David Lee: will she get closure? Photograph: CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images

The show is not called The Good Security Policy or The Good Lawfirm. It is The Good Wife and Alicias journey from humiliated spouse to top lawyer has always been exciting and complicated. The Good Wife never shied away from the messy, emotional things, like Alicia and her husbands open marriage, her tortured love affair with Will, or her sometimes ambivalent attitude about parenting her two teenage children. Her relationship with the firms stoic investigator, Kalinda (Archie Punjabi), was one of the best depictions of the strength of female friendship on television, until the two characters were pulled apart in later seasons.

Not all of her storylines have been great. A run for states attorney derailed most of season six in an attempt to give her a political scandal of her own, a payoff that created a nice symmetry for the character but didnt have the emotional resonance that series creators Robert and Michelle King hoped it would.

With the series finale looming, I hope that Alicia gets the closure that she deserves. Most of the series has been about her becoming her own person, someone who deserves to be in the spotlight rather than standing by her man. Its about Alicia becoming more than a wife, someone whose position is only seen in relation to someone else, and recognised as a woman in her own right. She might achieve it, thanks to a possible divorce from Peter after being estranged for so long, partnering up with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) for an all-female firm, and maybe even running off with her hunky new investigator Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Alicia is surely going to get a happy ending of sorts, and it will be nice to check in with all the best characters for one final hour. While the joy of being with them every Sunday night will be gone, the mark they left not only on network television but across the greater landscape every time we see a procedural that transcends the boundaries of its genre, a drama that tackles real-world issues with nuanced aplomb, or a complicated woman who doesnt apologize for the way she lives good or bad.

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Your next car will be hacked. Will autonomous vehicles be worth it?

Self-driving cars could cut road deaths by 80%, but without better security they put us at risk of car hacking and even ransoms, experts at SXSW say

Youre about to drive to work. You turn on the ignition and a message on the dash lights up. Weve hacked your car! Pay 10 bitcoin to get it back.

Hacking into software and then demanding a ransom to release it whats known as ransomware is not new. Finnish security expert Mikko Hypponen fully expects it to become a reality as self-driving or autonomous cars start to become more commonplace.

Already, one hacker claims to have taken control of some systems on board a passenger plane he was on, getting as far as issuing a climb command that he accessed through the entertainment system. Another pair of hackers caused a Jeep to crash in July 2015 by accessing some of the cars software through another poorly protected entertainment system. At the Defcon hacking conference, as far back as 2011, hackers were asking if they could write a virus that would be transmitted car to car.

Hypponen, chief research officer at the Finnish security firm F-Secure, told an audience at SXSW that in the 25 years he had worked in Cybersecurity, he had seen a big shift in the type of people who do the hacking, as well their motivations. When I entered this field, the hackers had no real motive they were doing it because they could.

He says there are now generally five types of hackers:

Good white hat hackers, who break security so that a weakness can be found, fixed and ultimately improved

Activist hackers, like Anonymous, who are politically but not perennially motivated

Nation-states and foreign intelligence agencies, a growing issue over the past ten years

Supporters of extremism of which Isis is the only really credible threat thus far

Criminals, who Hypponen says now make as much as 95% of all malware, using hacking to make millions of dollars

It is the criminals motivated by money that present the biggest threat and are likely to increasingly target self-driving cars; the multiple components in cars and lack of rigour by carmakers has made this a pressing issue. Legacy manufacturers who build cars have a long history of safety but not of security, and thats why they are starting learn the hard way. Now they take it seriously and last year was a wake-up call, he said of the Jeep hack.

Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute (III), says the US market for cyber insurance is growing massively, from $2bn in 2015 to a predicted $7.5bn in 2020. This is America, and if you have a breach of personal data, you are absolutely positively going to be sued. The legal fees and settlement costs will be more than the cost of the attack.

The III estimates that by 2030, 25% of all cars sold will be autonomous, marking a slightly slower pace than Google et al might have you believe. Hartwig also said that there will be an estimated 80% fewer traffic accidents because of the increased safety of autonomous cars. Data will be critical to this, allowing policies to be based on precise driving habits, safety and how many miles people actually drive not just what they say they do.

Jonathan Matus, CEO of the company behind the Zendrive app, explained how it uses the built-in motion and positioning sensors in smartphones to monitor driving, including rapid acceleration, sharp turns, stop signal compliance and phone use, which is a major factor in the number of global road deaths each year. Despite car ownership peaking, the number of deaths is actually increasing, he said.

New cars already have complex electrical diagnostic systems that include various monitoring systems so dont tell a cop you havent been speeding, because your car wont back you up, said Hartwig.

He pointed out that the road might actually be the last place to be overhauled for autonomous vehicles; Norway is already exploring an autonomous ferry, while planes are already so automated, even for takeoff and landing, that the skills of pilots are atrophying, Hartwig said.

Human-controlled cars will eventually be forbidden to drive on the road, Hypponen said, except for on race tracks. Matus said the same was certainly true of horses, suggesting yet another future threat to electronically controlled cars that could be harder to detect. If you wanted to slow US GDP, all you would have to do is increase the commute time in every urban environment by 15 minutes. Just tweak a few cars, or get one to put on the brake even if these things happen a few times, it will affect the confidence of consumers.

Even though he sees bad things happen all the time, Hypponen remains positive about self-driving cars, he said. The internet has brought us more good than bad. Overall, technology improves our lives and business, even with the risks. And Ill be able to watch cat videos on YouTube while Im driving.

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New Wave of Ransom Threats Seen in Unprecedented Attack

An unrivaled global cyber-attack is poised to continue claiming victims Monday as people return to work and turn on their desktop computers, even as hospitals and other facilities gained the upper hand against the first wave.

More than 200,000 computers in at least 150 countries have so far been infected, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. The U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said new cases of so-called ransomware are possible “at a significant scale.”

“We’ve seen the rise of ransomware becoming the principal threat, I think, but this is something we haven’t seen before — the global reach is unprecedented,” Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright said on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday” broadcast. 

QuickTake Cybersecurity

The malware used a technique purportedly stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency. It affected the U.K.’s National Health Service, Russia’s Ministry of Interior, China government agencies, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn rail system, automakers Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, PetroChina, logistics giant FedEx Corp., and other company and hospital computer systems in countries from Eastern Europe to the U.S. and Asia.

The hackers used the tool to encrypt files within affected computers, making them inaccessible, and demanded ransom — typically $300 in bitcoin. Russia and Ukraine had a heavy concentration of infections, according to Dutch security company Avast Software BV.

Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith, in a blog post Sunday, said the attack is a “wake-up call” for governments in the U.S. and elsewhere to stop stockpiling tools to exploit digital vulnerabilities. “They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world,” he said.

Normal Operations

About 97 percent of U.K. facilities and doctors disabled by the attack were back to normal operation, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday after a government meeting. At the height of the attack Friday and early Saturday, 48 organizations in the NHS were affected, and hospitals in London, North West England and Central England urged people with non-emergency conditions to stay away as technicians tried to stop the spread of the malicious software.

The initial attack was stifled when a security researcher disabled a key mechanism used by the worm to spread, but experts said the hackers were likely to mount a second attack because so many users of personal computers with Microsoft operating systems couldn’t or didn’t download a security patch released in March that Microsoft had labeled “critical.”

Microsoft said in a blog post Saturday that it was taking the “highly unusual“ step of providing the patch for older versions of Windows it was otherwise no longer supporting, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

While the scale of the attack shows Microsoft needs to strengthen its own capabilities, “there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their system,” Smith said in his blog post. “Otherwise they’re literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past.

“This attack is a powerful reminder that information technology basics like keeping computers current and patched are a high responsibility for everyone, and it’s something every top executive should support."

Matt Suiche, founder of United Arab Emirates-based cyber security firm Comae Technologies, said he’s seen a variant on the original malware that still contains a kill-switch mechanism — though future versions could find a way to overcome it. “We are lucky that this logic bug is still present,” Suiche said.

The Good Guys Can Have the Upper Hand on Cybersecurity

A message informing visitors of a cyber attack is displayed on the NHS website on May 12.

Photographer: Carl Court/Getty Images

Victims have paid about $50,000 in ransom so far, with the total expected to rise, said Tom Robinson, chief operating officer and co-founder of Elliptic Enterprises Ltd., a ransomware consultant that works with banks and companies in the U.K., U.S. and Europe. Robinson, in an interview by email, said he calculated the total based on payments tracked to bitcoin addresses specified in the ransom demands.

Last year an acute-care hospital in Hollywood paid $17,000 in bitcoin to an extortionist who hijacked its computer systems and forced doctors and staff to revert to pen and paper for record-keeping.

Business Targets

A spokesman for Spain’s Telefonica SA said the hack affected some employees at its headquarters, but the phone company is attacked frequently and the impact of Friday’s incident wasn’t major. FedEx said it was “experiencing interference,” the Associated Press reported.

Renault halted production at some factories to stop the virus from spreading, a spokesman said Saturday, while Nissan’s car plant in Sunderland, in northeast England, was affected without causing any major impact on business, an official said.

In Germany, Deutsche Bahn faced “technical disruptions” on electronic displays at train stations, but travel was unaffected, the company said in a statement on its website. Newspaper reports showed images of a ransomware message on display screens blocking train information.

Russia’s Interior Ministry, with oversight of the police forces, said about “1,000 computers were infected,” which it described as less than 1 percent of the total, according to its website.

In China, the malware affected computers at “several” unspecified government departments, the country’s Cyberspace Administration said on its WeChat blog Monday. Since that initial attack, agencies and companies from the police to banks and communications firms have put preventive measures in place, while Qihoo 360 Technology Co., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and other cybersecurity firms have begun making protection tools available, the internet overseer said.

China National Petroleum Corp., which owns PetroChina, reported that some of its 21,000 gas stations had seen their digital payment systems disabled by the attack and resorted to accepting cash. More than 80 percent of the stations had been reconnected to the network as of noon on May 14, the company said. Several Chinese universities had also been hit by the attacks, according to local media reports.

In Japan, Hitachi Ltd. said that some of its computers had been affected. In South Korea, CJ CGV Co., the country’s largest cinema chain, said advertising servers and displays at film theaters were hit by ransomware. Movie servers weren’t affected and are running as normal, it said in a text message Monday. Indonesia’s government reported two hospitals in Jakarta were affected.

While any size company could be vulnerable, many large organizations with robust security departments would have prioritized the update that Microsoft released in March and wouldn’t be vulnerable to Friday’s attack.

Users Tricked

Ransomware is a particularly stubborn problem because victims are often tricked into allowing the malicious software to run on their computers, and the encryption happens too fast for security software to catch it. Some security experts calculate that ransomware may bring in as much as $1 billion a year in revenue for the attackers.

The attack was apparently halted in the afternoon in the U.K. when a researcher took control of an Internet domain that acted as a kill switch for the worm’s propagation, according to Ars Technica.

“I will confess that I was unaware registering the domain would stop the malware until after I registered it, so initially it was accidental,” wrote the researcher, who uses the Twitter name @MalwareTechBlog. “So long as the domain isn’t revoked, this particular strain will no longer cause harm, but patch your systems ASAP as they will try again.”

There is a high probability that Russian-language cybercriminals were behind the attack, said Aleks Gostev, chief cybersecurity expert for Kaspersky Labs.

“Ransomware is traditionally their topic,” he said. “The geography of attacks that hit post-Soviet Union most also suggests that.”

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Banksy, Daft Punk, Elena Ferrante: The New Cult of the Anonymous Artist

From Banksy to Daft Punk, innovators in the new millennium are increasingly hiding their identities behind aliases, masks, and avatars.”>

Im a devoted fan of novelist Elena Ferrante, but I cant match my wifewho is currently reading her sixth Ferrante novel and is game for more. Of course, we are hardly alone in our enthusiasm: Ferrante is ultra-trendy right now, and has emerged as Italys leading candidate for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Except theres a tiny problemshe probably wont show up to accept a Nobel Prize. In fact, readers have no idea who Elena Ferrante really is. Ferrante isnt her real name, and the author might not even be a woman. Various theories about the novelists identity have been bandied about, but the only thing her publisher will admit is that she was born in Naples.

By the same token, Satoshi Nakamoto deserves a Nobel Prize in Economics for his creation of bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that is changing the world of international finance. But theres a problem here toono one knows Nakomotos real identity. A number of candidates have emerged, including Australian Craig Wright, who recently tried to take credit for bitcoin, but many experts doubt his claim. The bottom line: The leading innovator in money matters is a mystery man, and we may never know his real identity.

Banksy is the worlds most famous street artist. Every new work stirs up media attention, and the artists net worth is estimated to be north of $20 million. But dont expect to see Banksy in public. The painters true identity is shrouded in secrecy. Many believe that Robin Gunningham is the real Banksy, but others contend that a woman or a team of people might be behind the artists work.

Welcome to the strange world of modern-day fame, when it helps to be a nobody if you want to be a somebody! In some ways, we are returning to the rules of the medieval world, when major works of art and technology were created by anonymous innovators. But theres a difference nowadays: Todays mystery artists cultivate their aura of secrecy. They prefer obscurity over the perks of celebrity status.

Musical performers have a harder time playing this game. After all, they need to come out on stage at their gigs. Yet even here, the allure of anonymity is evident. Dozens of musicians and DJs, from Daft Punk to deadmau5, are putting on masks or helmets before making public appearances. A generation ago, only bank robbers and a handful of TV wrestlers wore masks when going to work, but now the superstars have latched on to face coverings as the hot new celebrity fashion accessory. In most instances, the real identity of these performers is known to fans, but the artists try to subsume their personality into their disguised persona. In a very real sense, they have turned into their own avatars.

We are all familiar with celebrity reclusesbut they play by different rules than the new breed of anonymous artists. I want to be alone, Greta Garbo proclaimed in an oft-repeated line from the 1932 film Grand Hotel. Garbo lived up to that assertion in her private life, retiring at age 35 and studiously avoiding public appearances in later years. In retrospect, we can see her renunciation of the limelight as the first stirrings of a new kind of fame, amplified by avoiding the public eye. But Garbo didnt crave anonymity, merely privacy.

Over the next half-century, other artists and innovators followed in her footsteps. J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, Howard Hughes, Sly Stone, Glenn Gould, Terrence Malick, Harper Lee, and others played this game to perfection. Not only did they maintain a low profile, but in some instances even current photos were unavailable. Yet even these celebrated recluses still enjoyed the perks of personal fame. They may have kept a low profile, but never considered changing their names or denying responsibility for their works.

The new anonymous artists scorn such half measures. They dont want to hide; they prefer to disappear.

We have a few examples of unknown artists from the 20th century. B Traven, author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, sold 25 million books while maintaining total anonymity. Guitarist Kid Bailey left behind some classic Delta blues recordings but his real name is a mystery. Yet these were rare situations, and my research into the Bailey case suggests that the motive for keeping out of the limelight in the Age of Garbo was embarrassment over awkward details of the artists private life.

When I tracked down the enigmatic jazz trumpeter Dupree Bolton in the 80s, and secured the first interview with a musician who had eluded all researchers for decades, he admitted that he hid from view due to shame at his criminal record (on various drug charges). In the case of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriters, they also kept in the shadowsbut, again, for practical reasons unrelated to their craft. They wanted the renown, but were forced to relinquish it.

The cases of Ferrante and Nakamoto are a different thing entirely. I suspect that they celebrate their anonymity. Certainly their admirers do.

Why is this happening at this juncture in history? Artists and empire builders of previous generations have always coveted fame. They devoted entire careers to cultivating it, and mourned its loss almost as if it were akin to death. Certainly we still have people like that. Look at Donald Trump, who puts his name on everythinga tower, a casino, a university, a board game, a cologne, and so on. Yet in the new millennium, such shameless self-promotion is increasingly pass.

The anonymous innovators strike us as cooler, hipper, perhaps even more trustworthy. After all, they have less to gain from the game of fame. They live ordinary lives, unnoticed when they go out in public, not much different from the average person. So perhaps we see them as more realan ironic state of affairs given their total absence from the scene.

But let me suggest three other reasons why anonymity is turning into the new status symbol.

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First, its so bloody hard to achieve nowadays. A host of technologies monitor our activities around the clock. Government and businesses act as if they are in a race to find out who can store the most data on the most people. Given this situation, I am hardly surprised that many of us fantasize about anonymity the way earlier generations craved fame.

Under this scenario, artists such as Banksy or Elena Ferrante are living the dream. They have somehow managed to avoid the constant surveillance that the rest of us have to endure as a matter of course.

The increasing use of avatars in the digital realm might be another reason for this new breed of celebrity. From this perspective, the anonymous celebrity is no different from the millions of people who keep their identities secret on Twitter or other digital platforms. The avatar almost becomes the brand image, more powerfuland more easily fine-tuned and photoshopped to match audience expectationsthan boring flesh-and-blood people.

But theres another likely explanation, perhaps the most encouraging one of them all. Its just possible that audiences are getting tired of the unrelenting narcissism of celebrity culture in the new millennium. After seeing a thousand Kardashian selfies and hearing a thousand boasting rappers and watching a thousand TV commercials featuring the same five NBA stars well, wouldnt you crave something a little less bombastic and ego-driven?

A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that pop songs of the present day are increasingly filled with boasting and ego trips. Compared with previous eras, songs from the current decade are more likely to include the singer referring to the self by name, general self-promotion, and bragging about wealth, partners appearance, or sexual prowess. In an earlier day, this unrelenting self-referential tone was restricted to rap songs, but nowadays it has spread to other genres of popular music.

In response to evidence of this sort, pundits tell us that we are living in an age of narcissism. But perhaps they are looking at the cause, not the effect. Many fans saturated in celebrity cultureespecially in this age of round-the-clock coveragehave already reached the point of overload and resistance. Their willingness to embrace these anonymous artists is perhaps a reaction against the tsunami of selfies and tawdry TMZ tidbits and Instagram updates.

Whatever the reasons behind it, I welcome this new cult of anonymity. In an age in which engagement with artistic works has been displaced by gossiping about celebrity artists, the anonymous innovators have forced us to return our gaze to the creative product. That cant be a bad thing, and we would be wrong to consider it as a mere trend or passing fad. Maybe we should adhere to that same way of contemplating art even when we know the artists identity.

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Where have all the art punks gone?

Every generation of artists has defined itself by rebellion. So where are the Generation Y revolutionaries? Our writer enters a world of corporate hijacks, Instagram breakdowns and fake frat parties

For more than 100 years, art has been defined by rebellion. From the surrealists rejection of the rational to the political paintings of Picasso, from the rage of the punks to the sly irony of the YBAs, the work that adorns the walls of our art institutions is overwhelmingly countercultural.

So what happened with millennials? Where is their rebellious spirit? Why, as Gregor Muir of the Institute of Contemporary Art asked recently, have they yet to produce an avant garde movement? Where, he added, are the authentic revolutionary artists rattling the bars?

The answer is far from straightforward. In the age of hypercapitalism, the tentacles of the corporate world extend further into our lives than ever before. Even the words that were once used to signify creative rebellion DIY, pop-up, grassroots, punk have been co-opted, fetishised, used to sell coffee, flog old furniture and entice property buyers to up-and-coming areas.

Spaces that once spawned and nurtured a countercultural spirit are also disappearing. Since 2005, the number of nightclubs in the UK has fallen from 3,144 to 1,733 and there are now only 88 live music venues left in London. Studio spaces for artists in the city are being shut down and redeveloped into flats at a breakneck pace, while rents on those that remain are often unaffordable. Even the squats and council housing once occupied by many an artist are no more.

Simon Denny A few years ago you might have become a sculptor. Now you might found a tech startup Photograph: Paolo Monello

But look beyond the traditional spaces and what emerges are a group of Generation Y artists who are arguably more avant garde than ever. There is now a growing movement working fluidly with both physical objects and digital platforms such as social media websites, and creating work that reappropriates and even hijacks the corporate, tech and art worlds from the inside out. Using art to find some agency in all the bullshit, as one artist bluntly phrased it.

Simon Denny, 33, typifies this approach. Denny, whos had shows at New Yorks Museum of Modern Art, the Venice Biennale and recently the Serpentine in London, takes management jargon and advertising slogans (Failure is just one step to success) and recontextualises them. The results, which often look a bit like a strange trade fair, aim to expose the foundations of the companies that shape our world.

This generation of artists are much more interested in investigating the textures and fabrics of the system we are actually under, says Denny, rather than presenting nostalgic alternatives that are outdated or unrealistic. It is about occupying the worlds of technology and the corporate world, getting close to them and their people.

The Innovators Dilemma by Simon Denny Photograph: Pablo Enriquez

The internet hasnt only changed our lives and jobs, says Denny, it has also changed the very definition of an artist. A few years ago, he says, if you were a creatively minded person, you might have become a sculptor or a painter. Now you are equally likely to become the founder of a tech startup, channelling your creative ideas and risk into what is, ultimately, a business.

Does that undermine an artists credibility? Denny believes not. A lot of young startup people are viewing their companies as an artwork, he says. I think the creativity involved in painting, say, and that of tech are getting closer. The incredible risk – with vision and values – that artists once represented is now embodied in these tech companies. That has a real resonance for me. People can make a beautiful business or a beautiful venture.

As Yuri Pattison, an emerging 29-year-old artist, points out, Generation Y have not grown up in the age of the faceless corporation. Figures such as Steve Jobs are portrayed as wild artistic geniuses, not CEOs of multibillion-dollar businesses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Assemble, the collective who won last years Turner prize, are also a registered corporation.

For a recent installation, Pattison, who started out as part of the London art collective Lucky PDF, collaborated virtually with a man in Kangding, China, working for a Bitcoin mine (where online currency is generated). Like much of Pattisons work, the piece had an online counterpart: a website that displayed live data from the international Bitcoin network.

Yuri Pattisons installation at Google Campus

By creating work that is freely accessible online, Pattison is part of this current generation who are unpicking the golden seams of the art market, where value lies in rarity and the need for an authentic original object. While these artists do exhibit in galleries, their work often continues to evolve and be shared beyond those white boxes.

The art world might be big and international, but it is also very flat and closed-minded. And making work only for art fairs isnt very risky. So allowing your work to circulate in areas without such strictly defined and elite audiences is really interesting, because then you are hopefully participating in a bigger conversation.

It also makes economic sense. In the UK, many emerging artists cannot afford studios, so they turn to the infinite space and creative resources online.This has given rise to post-studio practice, where Generation Y artists work mainly from their laptops and outsource major practical aspects of their work.

But if the cost of studio space and art school is not making art an entirely elitist enterprise in Britain, money of course, continues to drive artists towards tech, if only as a sideline to support their own work. Even for major biennale commissions such as Venice, artists will often only earn around 500 for a show that might takes months to prepare.

A work from Auto Italias project Golden Age Problems. Photograph: Kate Cooper

In response to the harsh economic climate facing Generation Y artists, and the resistance of established institutions to much of their work, collaborative organisations such as Auto Italia South East in London and Eastside Projects in Birmingham have sprung up. Kate Cooper, who co-founded Auto Italia in 2007, says that while the trend of this generation to create work from their laptops was partly creatively driven, it is dangerous to romanticise this way of working because it was often born out of necessity.

This idea of an artist as a single person, sitting in the studio all day, is a myth now, says Cooper. Its unaffordable and unrealistic. Every artist is in this precarious world. Everyone does five different jobs to support themselves. Some might be coders, others working on feature films or building apps. But whats interesting is that people will bring the tools from their day jobs into their art. And thats how new practices have emerged.

Recent Auto Italia projects include Golden Age Problems, in which a dozen artists examined their own seduction by mass media through everything from images to performances and a website. For the older generation, this can all seem quite alienating, says Cooper. These works are still perceived as less accessible, so they are less likely to be brought into the big institutions. I think thats a cultural misunderstanding that needs to be overcome.

Artists are also using online platforms to explore something much more personal: questions of who we are online. Ed Fornieles, 32, is one of many artists examining the murky waters of digital identity. For his most recent project, he took on the persona of a virtual cartoon fox to explore how people create new identities. Facebook has become this space where the most meaningful moments of ones life are mixed with corporate narrative adverts, he says. Personally, I dont see the difference between them any more. They are all part of the same mush. I think it all has value. Today, with art and commerce constantly feeding off each other, it is a super exciting place to look for ideas.

For Fornieles, the key role his work and that of his contemporaries can play is to force a disruption from the mindless clicking that defines most peoples digital experience: only then can we step back, re-evaluate, and regain control of our identities online. Fornieles who once used Facebook to invite 120 people to a fake frat party for his Animal House project also responded to Gregor Muirs damning verdict. He is working to an older model, where avant-garde art is this fuck you to the system. He is missing what is actually going on. That spirit is still there but it just doesnt use the old set of strategies.

Ed Fornieles fox avatar

If you look at the YBAs, you have a bunch of people who, on the whole, just created a strand of work and then just repeated it again and again, so it became very easily categoriseable. And theres nothing more conservative than that.

Yet the use of social media by Generation Y artists is more complicated than simple critique or celebration, just as these spaces themselves occupy muddy moral waters. Instagram is both an aspirational platform and the place where inequalities become glaringly apparent.

This was thrown into stark relief by the artist Amalia Ulman. As part of her piece Excellences and Perfections, she created a persona on Instagram over a year, sharing everything from pole-dancing classes to breast enhancement and a nervous breakdown. She gained thousands of followers for her carefully documented life, but recently revealed it was entirely false. Her dedicated fanbase cried betrayal, while some art critics decried it as genius.

Amalia Ulmans Excellences & Perfections, at Tate Modern until 12 June

Staging the work on instagram, says Ulman, confronted her audiences with their own fabrications and personas, the ones they had adopted on social media, often unconsciously. The work made people into internet trolls without them even realising. People hated the character but would still follow, make comments and share with their friends. It then forced them to think about why they were enjoying the suffering of this girl they didnt even know, using her as entertainment.

Another group exploring how technology and the internet have colonised our personal lives are the art collective yr, who will represent Britain at the Venice Architecture Biennale this year. They began life as the Airbnb collective, named after the website at the forefront of the sharing economy, which encourages us to put our homes online. There are now even websites for people to rent out their homes during the day for others to use as work spaces.

yrs bedroom phone chargers at the 2015 Frieze

The domestic space was once the last bastion of untouched individual identity says yr member Alessandro Bava. But right now it is being challenged in a very direct way. To demonstrate the point, their Airbnb pavilion at the 2014 biennale was staged across three apartments they rented via the website.

Global corporations have changed our relationship with our own our homes. Technology means most of us can work from home, and websites are encouraging us to profit from them, make every moment that you spend at home productive. So the home is now becoming the ultimate place of labour. And we are the first generation to really experience that.

For the Frieze art fair in London last year, the group created six interlocking bedrooms, where people could sit on the beds and charge their phones showing the lack of distinction people now make between intimate private spaces and public ones.

The intangible nature of this art still dogs Generation Y. Unlike the YBAs, it does not have a snappy name that makes it easy to talk about, and its highly conceptual nature lends itself to cries of the emperors new clothes. Fornieles recalls his encounters with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of exhibitions at the Serpentine: He always asks me if we have a name yet. In some ways we do need one, I guess.

Whatever their troubles, it feels like a pivotal moment for this new generation. Electronic Superhighway, which recently opened at the Whitechapel Gallery, is the most thorough survey of digital art to date, Ulman features in a new photography show at the Tate Modern, and this years Berlin Biennale is being curated by the DIS collective, a pioneering group who blend art and fashion with mass media and commerce.

It is weird and hard and I think its taken a long time to filter into the mainstream, says yrs Bava. But slowly it is being acknowledged as something that is not just kids over-identifying with their oppressor. This work is now being understood as something powerful and even quite punk.

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