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This is ostensibly the season of giving, so it is worth mentioning Jeffrey Inaba’s new book World of Giving, dedicated to exploring this cornerstone of human sociality. An architect and professor, Inaba researched, edited, and wrote the book with C-Lab, an ‘experimental research unit’ he directs, as an extension of their current Donor Hall exhibition at the New Musuem in New York. An ‘immersive graphic environment,’ the diagrams, maps, and illustrations that make up Donor Hall attempt to shed light on the opaque movements of large-scale philanthropic giving. World of Giving expands on this project, widening to the focus to encompass the entire convoluted infrastructure of international aid, including NGOs, corporate investment, and micro-lending. By virtue of his profession, Inaba translates a well-worn sociological subject into architectural terms, and at times this limits his focus. He discusses the ‘fluid matrix of limitations’ that affect gift-giving, likening the cultural, social, and economic blockades faced by aid to restrictions imposed on a site, but gives little mention to those forms of patronage used to overcome claustrophobic state control in places like China or Russia.

But Inaba’s visual acuity and research acumen is undeniable. He connects disparate chunks of large- and small-scale data, making legible a little-explored financial jungle through arresting diagrams and indexes. Beautifully designed, World of Giving is also refreshing take on a basic building block of our society, and is well worth a look.