Hi Meg and welcome. I'm relatively new myself (less than two years here). It can get a bit fraught but there are enough positives.
One thing that may be directly relevant to what you're looking for concerns a (largely) traditional singaround at the Beech pub, Chorlton, Manchester UK. The idea was first mooted (by Mudcatter 'Les in Chorlton') on Mudcat and the forum has been one of the main channels of communication by which dates have been set and people involved have kept in touch. This has meant that people further afield (eg 'Sedayne' and 'Rapunzel') have been made aware of it, as well as people not involved in local folk clubs (eg me!). It also means we can all be kept informed without the usual tedious round of phone calls - it also potentially means that any visiting Mudcat user who happened to be in town would be aware of it.
In a way, stuff like this is far more useful (and potentially plays far more of a role in keeping the music alive and meaningful) than any number of circular threads about 'the meaning of folk'.
Good luck with your thesis.