E.g. the engineering that goes into the roads we travel on, the railways we use, the negative space in a painting, or any of the many systems that we depend on.


1 Answer 1


invisible (adj.)

Not noticed or acknowledged : treated as if invisible : overlooked

If you say that you feel invisible, you are complaining that you are being ignored by other people. If you say that a particular problem or situation is invisible, you are complaining that it is not being considered or dealt with.

It was strange, how invisible a clerk could feel.
The problems of the poor are largely invisible.

I don't see an entry in the OED online for this figurative sense. The New Oxford American Dictionary comes closer, but is still limited:

Figurative (of a person) treated as if unable to be seen; ignored or not taken into consideration: before 1971, women artists were pretty well invisible.

In many places, infrastructures remain invisible until they break down...
Zlatan Krajina and Deborah Stevenson (eds.); The Routledge Companion to Urban Media and Communication (2019)

A growing body of work has begun to move analyses of technological failure beyond the "invisible until breakdown" and "failure-as-event" paradigms.
Adriana Mica, Mikołaj Pawlak et al. (eds.) Routledge International Handbook of Failure (2015)

The same broad principle has been taken up in more recent work in new media and technology studies, for example, Bowker and Star's (1999) observation that technologies and practices which rise (or sink) to the level of infrastructure are frequently invisible until breakdown, and ...
Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo J. Boczkowski et al. (eds.) Media Technologies (2014)

Infrastructures of modernity are often invisible until they fail.
Claudia Aradau and Tobias Blanke; Algorithmic Reason

As the sociologist and key reframing thinker Erving Goffman pointed out as far back as the 1960s, cultural norms are pretty much invisible—right until you break them.
Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg; What's Your Problem? (2020)

In casual conversations with friends, colleagues, and even strangers, we found that "culture" and "identity" are pervasive but invisible until they are pointed out.
David Nunan and ‎Julie Choi (eds.); Language and Culture (2010)

Universally designed features tend to become invisible until pointed out, and therefore will become easier for others to imitate if well publicized.
Wolfgang F. E. Preiser, Jacqueline Vischer et al. (eds.); Design Intervention (2015)

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